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Illinois Route 390 Expected to Spur Economic Boom

One of the most important highway projects in the nation, the Illinois Tollway’s $3.4 billion Elgin O’Hare Western Access (EOWA) Project, took a giant step forward in late July when the new flyover ramp in Itasca that connects westbound I-290 to Illinois Route 390, formerly known as the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway, was opened to traffic.

The EOWA Project was designated a “Project of National and Regional Significance” by federal transportation legislation because of its magnitude and potential to dramatically improve mobility, increase freight connectivity and enhance the regional economy, according to Illinois Tollway Executive Director Greg Bedalov.

It includes 17 miles of new roads with 15 new or improved interchanges as part of a new, all-electronic toll road. The project includes rehabilitating and widening Illinois Route 390 and extending it east along Thorndale Avenue to O’Hare International Airport and building a new roadway around the western border of O’Hare linking the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) and the Tri-State Tollway (I-294).

The improved transportation links created by the EOWA Project will help stimulate economic development along its path and across the region, attracting new businesses and creating jobs, Bedalov said. The project will allow for quick, convenient transportation of freight, goods and services, facilitated by new access to O’Hare from the west side via York Road, the south side via Taft Avenue and the north side via a new interchange at I-90 and Elmhurst Road and an improved Touhy Avenue. In addition, the project will also make it easier for workers to reach their jobs by significantly reducing commuting times.

When completed, the EOWA Project is expected to accommodate three times as many vehicles per day as local roads carry now, reducing delays on local roads by 24 percent. The project is expected to reduce travel time by more than seven minutes for the 11-mile trip between the west side of O’Hare and Lake Street (U.S. Route 20) – a savings of 25 percent.

Craig Johnson, Elk Grove Village mayor and member of the Illinois Tollway’s Board of Directors, is watching the roadway’s progress with great anticipation. He has been advocating for a ring road around the airport for more than 30 years.

“When I talk to the business owners in my community and ask how I can help them, they invariably mention improving transportation corridors. Time spent in traffic by their trucks and employees costs them money. Transportation seems to be a bigger issue with most of them than taxes,” Johnson said.

“We move 90,000 tons of freight in and out of Elk Grove Village every day. They also need to move their customers, salespeople and employees in and out of town, so we have to alleviate the congestion by finding better ways to get vehicles in and out of the business park. The new full interchange at Elmhurst Road will certainly help and then we are looking forward to the completion of the Illinois Route 390 ring road,” he continued.

“Most people say that they will be happy to pay the tolls if they can save some time. The residents of Elk Grove Village will also benefit because it will take them less time to get in and out of town on their commutes. This roadway improvement is critical on all levels. It is part of the bigger puzzle that will eventually allow us to attract new business to the area,” Johnson said.

Once Illinois Route 390 is complete Johnson said that he hopes to see the City of Chicago make progress on a people mover that circles the airport, as well as western terminals for both cargo and passengers.

“When that happens it will bring an economic boom to the suburbs on the west side of the airport,” he predicted.

The Elgin O’Hare Corridor was first envisioned as a key transportation route in the 1960s and subsequent environmental and engineering studies led to the construction of the Elgin O’Hare Expressway between U.S. Route 20 and Rohlwing Road in 1993. After completing that construction, the Illinois Department of Transportation, DuPage County, Cook County and the city of Chicago, along with the Illinois Tollway, continued with planning to address the ultimate vision of providing long-term improvements that will serve Chicago and the suburbs by easing traffic congestion and improving access to O’Hare, Bedalov said.

In 2011, after receiving input from local elected officials, business, public finance and regional planning and transportation experts, the Tollway took on the project and included funding in its 15-year, $12 billion capital program, Move Illinois: The Illinois Tollway Driving the Future.

“Construction of the project began in 2013 and is scheduled to continue in phases until completed by the end of 2025. The western portion of Illinois Route 390 between Lake Street (U.S. Route 20) and I-290 is the first phase scheduled to be complete by the end of 2015 with toll collection beginning in this segment in the summer of 2016,” Bedalov said.

In 2017, the Illinois Tollway is scheduled to complete the next key segments of the EOWA Project, including a new $440 million interchange at I-290 and Illinois Route 390 that will provide free-flow of traffic to and from Illinois Route 390 in all directions and completion of the eastern portion of the new Illinois Route 390 extending to Illinois Route 83.

As the EOWA Project moves forward, the Illinois Tollway continues to meet with local municipalities, property owners, residents, businesses and community groups to review construction plans and to address local construction issues, including noise abatement, landscaping options, property access and use, as well as drainage and utility issues, Bedalov added.

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