Federal Highway Administration and Federal Aviation Administration issued a record of decision last week approving the plan for the Elgin-O’Hare western access project.
After five years of planning by the Illinois Department of Transportation and, at times, heated debate with the affected neighboring communities, the final pieces are now in place to begin construction of the new roadway on the western border of O'Hare Airport. The all-electronic tollway will link the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) and the Tri-State Tollway (I-294). The Elgin O'Hare Expressway will be extended east along Thorndale Avenue to O'Hare, and the existing Elgin O'Hare Expressway will be widened and rehabilitated.
The approval was the last step in the federal review of the project's environmental impact.
The $3.4 billion project is part of the Illinois Tollway’s 15-year, $12 billion capital program.
“This critical step towards construction of the Elgin O’Hare Western Access Project is a testament to the strong regional and bipartisan consensus we built for this project,” Gov. Pat Quinn said. “This historic project will put thousands of Illinois men and women to work improving our infrastructure while driving economic growth across the region.”
The project is expected to create as many as 65,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2040 when combined with completion of the western terminal at O’Hare Airport, according to a press release from the Tollway.
The Tollway tentatively will spend $95.6 million in 2013 for work on Elgin O’Hare western access. Much of the funding will come from the near-90 percent toll hike that went into affect at the beginning of this year. Potential 2013 construction includes noisewalls along the existing Elgin O’Hare, Rohlwing Road (Route 53) grade separation and southbound Elmhurst Road over the I-90 bridge.
The actual location and schedule of construction will be dependent on land acquisition, permits, agreements and utility relocations. The intention of the 2013-2025 implementation is to improve travel efficiency, provide western access to O'Hare, enhance multi-modal connections and reduce congestion.
Although the tollway refers to the extension as the "western access project," there are no plans at this time to develop a western terminal at O'Hare, according to a Chicago Tribune article last week.
Initial western access to O'Hare will not be from the bypass, itself, but from a ramp off of York Road that dead-ends on airport property. Details of the plan can be found here.
The plan, which has been in the works for decades, is considered a “project of national and regional significance” by the U.S. Department of Transportation.