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New road project funding could be impacted by economy

Madhu Mayer | 7/29/2020, 1:17 p.m.
Drivers in Will County should get used to seeing more construction signs when traveling on area roadways. The Illinois Department ...

Drivers in Will County should get used to seeing more construction signs when traveling on area roadways.

The Illinois Department of Transportation announced a $21.3 billion five-year highway improvement plan that includes money allocated for new I-55 interchanges impacting Romeoville and Plainfield residents.

IDOT's construction plan include a new I-55 interchange on Airport-Lockport Road and a full interchange on Route 126. Currently, drivers can only access northbound I-55 from Route 126. Once constructed, the full interchange would allow drivers to travel southbound on the interstate. Both interchanges are projected to cost more than $180 million.

Even with the announcement that $3.2 billion is allocated for fiscal year 2021, officials from IDOT are warning that the funding could be dramatically curtailed due to the coronavirus that has severely impacted the economy. Since much of the money is derived from motor fuel taxes, IDOT expects the revenue source to dramatically decrease as people have either lost their jobs or are working from home, which means less driving and gas usage.

Among the provisions in the five-year IDOT plan are replacement of the bridges on I-80 over the Des Plaines River, widening Jefferson Street from Houbolt Road in Joliet to River Road in Shorewood and intersection improvements on Route 53 from Route 52 in Joliet to Arsenal Road in Elwood.

Miguel Fuentes of Bolingbrook said a full interchange would actually cut down on traffic in Bolingbrook. Because drivers cannot get on southbound I-55 from Route 126, he said many actually travel north on I-55 and get off on the always-busy Weber Road exit and access southbound I-55 from there.

"And people know the exit to Weber Road is so long that cars are actually stacked on I-55," he said. "Just having a full interchange on Route 126 and a new interchange on Airport Road would cut down on traffic in all these roads."

While she welcomes the roadway project, Jill McKinney of Joliet is not looking forward to the gridlock on Jefferson Street.

"Construction means I have to leave for work half hour early and come home late," she said. "But it is a small price to pay. I'd take traffic over an improved road everyday."