Quinn: I-80 project ‘vital’ to Southland
BY CASEY TONER email@example.com October 24, 2012 7:56PM
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announces the completion of the I-80 expansion project during a ceremony along side the interstate highway at the Pipefitters Training Center in Mokena Wednesday, October 23, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 26, 2012 7:18AM
The makeover of a local stretch of Interstate 80 was a job-creating project vital to the Southland, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said Wednesday.
Although work wrapped up last month, Quinn officially announced the completion of an eight-mile, $26 million renovation Wednesday at the Pipe Fitters’ Training Center Local Union 597 building in Mokena.
Surrounded by more than a dozen pipe fitters, Quinn pointed to the interstate and trumpeted the work as an improvement to “America’s highway.” He said the project created about 340 construction jobs and was vital to the south suburbs.
“It connects one ocean to another,” Quinn said of I-80. “It goes through the heartland of America, and Illinois is the heart of the heartland.”
The construction — which began in the spring of 2011 and frequently led to delays and long drive times — stretched from the U.S. 30 exit in New Lenox to the LaGrange Road exit that feeds into Mokena and Tinley Park.
A third lane was added in each direction, and five 10- to 25-foot-high sound walls were installed along the route to protect residents from the traffic-related din. More than 80,000 vehicles travel that stretch of I-80 every day.
Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider said the work had a green component as well: Almost half of the asphalt used in part of the project was recycled, and the new lights are solar-powered.
Will County Executive Larry Walsh, State Sen. Pat McGuire (D-Joliet), State Rep. Larry M. Walsh Jr. (D-Elwood), Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin, and Mokena Trustee John Mazzorana also spoke.
McGuire said the improvement to the highway and the recent construction of long-awaited Interstate 355 were proof that Will County had “arrived.”
“Will County is no longer the ‘sticks,’ ” McGuire said. “Now we’re the trunk, the strongest part of our transportation system.”
McLaughlin said he believes a renovated I-80 brings more out-of-state shoppers to retail-rich Orland Park.
“We’re bringing a lot of Indiana money to Orland Park retail because of I-80,” McLaughlin said.
The I-80 project was part of a $31 billion capital construction program in Illinois that began in 2009. More than $14 billion from that program remains for transportations needs up through 2015.
Overall, the program will create or support 439,000 construction jobs and improve more than 1,000 bridges and 6,900 miles of road, officials said.
“We have more to do in Illinois,” Quinn said.