Tri-State, North Avenue exit ramp slated for 2018
Tri-state Expressway to exit east onto North Avenue
Updated: December 23, 2012 6:38AM
NORTHLAKE — In a few years, southbound drivers on Interstate 294 will be able to exit onto eastbound North Avenue.
In 2018, the Illinois Tollway will begin constructing a new exit ramp via County Line Road, e-mailed Tollway spokeswoman Joelle McGinnis. The project is part of the Elgin O’Hare Western Access project.
“Improvements include construction of a new southbound I-294 exit ramp along (with) intersection improvements of Illinois Route 64, U.S. Route 20, County Line Road and Northwest Avenue,” McGinnis e-mailed. “The improvements are currently estimated to cost $50 to $60 million.”
The exit ramp has been desired for decades, Northlake Mayor Jeff Sherwin said.
“It’s been a 40-year quest in the desert, just like Moses,” Sherwin said.
At least one large business has come and gone based on anticipation of an exit ramp. The O’Hare Port Hotel was constructed in 1968 in anticipation of an exit.
“It cost $16 million to build,” Sherwin said. When the exit ramp didn’t materialize, “It was sold four years later for $4 million.”
Concord Place Retirement and Assisted Living eventually purchased the O’Hare Port Hotel.
Interstate 294, also known as the Tri-State Tollway, was completed in 1958. It’s 83 miles long and was built as part of the 187-mile tollway system over a 27-month period, said Andy Plummer, who worked for the Chicago Area Transportation Study for 30 years and now consults on transportation issues.
“That piece at I-294 where there’s North Avenue has an interesting history,” Plummer said. “The county was trying to get the Tollway built in different locations closer to the Des Plaines River. The Tollway was adamant they weren’t going to build it there. The cost was too high and the return in tolls were too low to justify that.”
Plummer speculates that might be the reason an exit to eastbound North Avenue wasn’t built years ago.
“The Tollway up until the last 15 years did not build ramps where the volume and revenue would not support construction and operation,” Plummer said. “Now the volumes are so high, it doesn’t make much difference.
Siim Soot, former director of the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois, Chicago suggests the complexity of the intersection may have delayed exit ramp construction.
“You already have a very complex arterial interchange,” Soot said. “You have two interstates (I-294 and I-290) that run parallel for a couple miles. Lake Street intersects with North Avenue. It makes it very difficult.”
Soot said an exit ramp in that area will get a lot of use. That wasn’t always the case.
“When the expressway was built, most of the development was to the east,” Soot said. “Now much has grown to the west. There’s a tremendous amount of employment in that corridor, commercial traffic, residential traffic, some tourism. O’Hare generates a fair amount of traffic.”
The Tollway projects that traffic on North Avenue will increase by 1,300 vehicles per day by 2030 with the new exit and other improvements.
Sherwin said that will help business.
“It will help with the industrial area and retail for both Melrose Park and Northlake, but especially Northlake,” Sherwin said. “That’s really going to bring a lot of economic development opportunities to everyone down the line.”