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Plainfield presented options on new I-55 interchanges

Updated: March 18, 2013 6:14AM

The village of Plainfield has options when it comes to offering input on plans to ease congestion for local residents accessing Interstate 55.

Funding is one of the factors that will determine what major changes will occur for drivers on a six-mile stretch of I-55 between Weber Road and Route 30.

For more than a year, V3 Cos. has been working on the development of the Phase I engineering study for the expansion of the I-55 interchange at Route 126 and the creation of a new interchange at I-55 and Lockport Street/Airport Road.

Plainfield has entered an intergovernmental agreement with Romeoville and Bolingbrook in support of the study and a Community Advisory Group has been providing guidance in the development of potential traffic routes.

Dave Heslinga of V3 on Monday told the Plainfield Village Board that there are several options on the table regarding the expansion of I-55.

They include improving the existing interchanges, having new interchange locations and improving cross road and frontage road access.

Currently, drivers can only travel north on I-55 from Route 126, a section that is under the jurisdiction of the village of Bolingbrook.

Motorists can also exit onto the west Route 126 exit from southbound I-55. But northbound drivers on I-55 cannot exit onto Route 126.

To ease the congestion on I-55, the village of Romeoville is proposing a full interchange on Lockport Street/Airport Road.

Though Plainfield does not have full jurisdiction over the proposed interchanges, the village is involved in the planning process and recently approved a feasibility study for a Lockport Street bypass that would keep truck traffic out of downtown.

Heslinga said one of the options, a full interchange at Route 126 and I-55, presents several problems.

“There would be some significant environmental challenges in constructing this improvement due to the soil/water conditions,” he said.

While this proposed overpass would provide a cross connection, Heslinga said it would also impact the surrounding area.

“This work would require the taking of at least four houses on the east side and a fair amount or right-of-way on the west side in order for it to be constructed,” he continued.

“The construction costs would be high as well.”

Heslinga said a new interchange at Lockport Street/Airport Road and I-55 offers several advantages.

“It provides for full access to north- and south-bound traffic,” he said. “It has lesser impact to the (Plainfield Park District) and (Plainfield Township) properties on the west side. It does, via the frontage roads, impact the properties on the east side.”

Another idea under provides for an interchange improvement, referred to as a spread diamond interchange. In this concept, Heslinga said much of the improvements are located at Lockport Street/Airport Road.

“This concept includes a connection to Route 126/Essington Road via improved frontage roads between the two locations,” he said. “At Route 126/Essington Road, the intersection will be built to bring vehicles down to Lockport/Airport Road for the southbound I-55 connection.”

The improvements at Lockport Street/Airport Road, Heslinga said, will provide for northbound access to I-55 via a frontage road connection to Route 126/Essington and southbound access to I-55.

Trustees Dan Rippy and Margie Bonuchi said the Lockport Street bypass must be in place before construction on any interchange begins.

“That bypass has to happen first because the area is so residential and without that, it would be a nightmare for us,” said Bonuchi.

Heslinga said once the Phase I engineering study is completed, the design process could take at least two years.

Construction could start in 2017, depending on availability of federal funding.

MaryEllen Schmidt of Plainfield said she is eager to see interchange improvements.

“Access to I-55 is a nightmare in the mornings and we need all the alternative routes,” she said.

“Sometimes, Route 126 is backed up to the railroad tracks because traffic is so heavy to get onto northbound I-55.”

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