CHICAGO – Monday, April 23, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn announced today that the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will begin engineering studies for a major reconstruction project to add much-needed capacity to the Circle Interchange in the heart of Chicago. The interchange, where the Kennedy, Dan Ryan and Eisenhower expressways converge, along with Congress Parkway, carries more than 300,000 vehicles a day and remains widely regarded as one of the nation’s worst bottlenecks.
“Today we begin the engineering process to improve the Circle Interchange," Governor Quinn said. "In Illinois, we are committed to investing in road projects that reduce traffic congestion, create jobs and help us reduce our impact on the environment."
A joint venture of AECOM and TranSystems, at an estimated cost of $25 million, has been awarded $40 million to start the engineering studies to identify the scope of the improvements and the potential cost and construction schedule. The studies will take approximately two years to complete. During the study process, IDOT will be seeking input from key stakeholders, including the City of Chicago, the Chicago Transit Authority, the University of Illinois at Chicago and nearby neighborhoods and businesses.
“Anyone who has driven in Chicago will tell you the Circle Interchange is one of the toughest traffic spots,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider said. “The engineering studies are the first step toward providing relief to motorists stuck in traffic and helping the environment by cutting down on harmful emissions from idling vehicles.”
Built more than 50 years ago, the Circle Interchange’s high traffic volumes, single lane ramps and tight curves make it highly prone to delays and congestion. Delays caused by the interchange average nearly 10 minutes a day per vehicle, for a combined 25 million hours annually. Most of the interchange’s key components have not been improved since they were first built in the 1950s and 1960s.
In 2010, the Federal Highway Administration and the American Transportation Research Institute identified the Circle Interchange as the No. 1 bottleneck among highways crucial to the nation’s freight transportation system, operating at well below ideal speeds for more than 14 hours a day. Of the more than 300,000 vehicles that use the interchange each day, about 26,000 are trucks. A preliminary analysis by IDOT indicates that building additional lanes on some of the key ramps will reduce congestion by as much as 30 percent.
To ensure the continuation of the state's capital plan and projects like these, which are putting hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents back to work, Governor Quinn has proposed necessary changes to stabilize and restructure the state's pension and Medicaid programs after decades of fiscal mismanagement. The proposals outline up to $85 billion in savings from changes to the pension system (based on current actuarial assumptions), and $2.7 billion in savings from restructuring Medicaid. These changes will lead to greater certainty in Illinois' business climate and help respond to serious concerns from the ratings' agencies. The billions of dollars saved through these reforms are key to the state's ability to ensure that critical capital improvement and road safety projects in Illinois are able to move forward.