IDOT engineer John Baczek says the Des Plaines River bridge along I-80 is safe but has safety concerns. At Thursday night’s RUSH meeting moderated by WJOL’s Scott Slocum more than 200 people attended Joliet Jr. College. They heard a different story from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute. Transportation analyst Mary Craighead says 26-percent of bridges along I-80 are “structurally deficient.” The Institute gave the Des Plaines River Bridge a rating of 6 out of a 100. But Baczek maintains the bridges are safe.
There have been 36 fatal crashes from 2010 to present day along I-80 from route 47 to 294. Baczek says there are a number of factors including speed that contribute to the high number of fatalities.
Illinois State Rep. Larry Walsh Jr. from the 86th District was the only elected official on stage at the RUSH forum. He said I-80 as it stands now can’t continue. He said it’s like “driving in the country, but you’re in an urban area” with miles of ditches and no off-road shoulders in many areas. Walsh had the unenviable task of telling the audience his proposal to make I-80 a toll road. Walsh said he understands that nobody wants to pay for a toll, but says, “our residents need a safe highway to travel on.” Residents at the meeting objected to turning I-80 into a toll road. One resident saying he can’t afford paying an extra 40-dollars a month when his budget is already stretched so thin.
Marc Poulos a member of Governor Pritzker’s infrastructure committee says Illinois has lagged behind in motor fuel tax and other vehicle licensing as compared to neighboring states. Illinois’ motor fuel tax stands at 19-cents a gallon which hasn’t changed in 30 years. The best solution to make I-80 safer is to make it a tollway. If the toll way is approved, a complete redo of a 16-mile stretch could be done in 7 years. If IDOT were to reconstruct I-80 it would take anywhere from 10 to 15 years and cost 1.5 billion dollars.
Residents and elected officials filled the Auditorium at JJC
Announced Thursday night, rumble strips will be added to the shoulder on I-80, IDOT is planning to install overhead digital message boards to better relay traffic conditions, as well as working to expand Emergency Traffic Patrol to assist in incident management. The department also is rebuilding the interchange at U.S. 30, with new ramp alignments and capacity enhancements on I-80.
For the complete report on the safety of I-80 by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute click here