The Illinois Department of Transportation, under the leadership of Gov. JB Pritzker and Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman, met the challenges of COVID-19 in 2020, ensuring infrastructure stayed open and safe, keeping projects on schedule and delivering the first full year of the historic Rebuild Illinois capital program. Passed in 2019, Rebuild Illinois made possible approximately $2.8 billion in improvements to 1,706 miles of highway and 128 bridges, as well as 228 additional safety improvements, in the 2020 fiscal year, the first full year of the bipartisan capital program. Throughout the state, IDOT was instrumental in the response to the pandemic while meeting the challenges of keeping infrastructure open and projects moving. Even with these obstacles, IDOT kept the construction season on schedule without interruption. The year also brought new commitment to investing in underserved communities and strengthening multimodal connections in a state that serves as the country’s transportation hub.
At the governor’s direction, IDOT remained open for business throughout the pandemic, with a special focus on the critical mission of maintaining a safe, reliable system of transportation for Illinois. Roads and bridges stayed open. Maintenance and operations staff remained on duty. Projects stayed on course, sustaining jobs and the local economy in many communities.
Rest areas, as usual, were open 24/7, doing their part to keep the nation’s supply chain moving. Volunteer events were held at weigh stations to serve free boxed lunches to truckers to show the public’s appreciation.
Operations personnel across the state delivered over 2,700 pallets and packages of vital Personal Protective Equipment, which went to healthcare facilities, emergency management agencies, testing sites, veterans’ homes, hospitals and other state agencies in the fight against COVID-19.
Highway and bridge improvements
During the 2020 calendar year, IDOT completed more than 600 highway projects, ranging from minor resurfacings to interstate and bridge reconstructions.
A 7-mile stretch of Interstate 255 in the Metro East, one of the worst roads in the state, was rehabilitated and completed nearly a month ahead of schedule. The $67 million project, one of the first under Rebuild Illinois, was completed cheaper, faster and safer by closing the work zone to all traffic for one construction season. In the fall, the department broke ground on the Delhi Bypass and the expansion of U.S. 67 to four lanes in Jersey County.
A $42 million investment upgraded the Murray Baker Bridge in Peoria, another project that saved time and money by diverting traffic and condensing the construction schedule to one year.
In Southern Illinois, more than 5 miles of Interstate 57 were expanded to six lanes between Johnston City and West Frankfort, the latest phase in a multiyear effort to improve safety and capacity along a crucial corridor.
Construction started in July to replace the U.S. 150 bridge over I-57 and the Mattis Avenue bridges over I-57 and I-74, advance projects leading to next year’s start of the I-57/74 interchange reconstruction in Champaign-Urbana. A cornerstone of Rebuild Illinois, the I-57/74 project will remake a critical freight juncture that accommodates almost 40,000 vehicles a day.
The $27.4 million Illinois 178 bridge over the Illinois River in Utica was completed, providing a new gateway with dedicated bike and pedestrian access to Starved Rock and Matthiessen state parks.
A rebuilt 8-mile section of I-70 between Altamont and Effingham opened in the fall.
In the Rockford area, completed projects included a $20 million resurfacing of Interstate 39 from Baxter Road to Harrison Avenue, along with U.S. 20 from just west of Alpine Road to I-39. The U.S. 20-Illinois 2 interchange was reconfigured to a signalized diamond interchange with various other safety improvements.
A joint project with Iowa, the new Interstate 74 Mississippi River Bridge in the Quad Cities reached a key stage with the opening of the new westbound bridge. The twin eastbound bridge is due to open in late 2021.