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Several major projects resume, planned for Southland roadways

Looking north LaGrange Road 171st Street excavatiwork widen LaGrange continues with temporary traffic signals strung across intersection. Work widening LaGrange

Looking north on LaGrange Road at 171st Street, excavation work to widen LaGrange continues, with temporary traffic signals strung across the intersection. Work on widening LaGrange to three lanes in each direction will continue through this year and into 2015. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 21, 2014 6:13AM



After contending with an extended and intense winter driving season, Southlanders can start girding themselves for a road construction season that will see a continuation of major projects that started last year and new work that will get underway in the coming months.

Some multimillion-dollar projects are resuming in earnest, including widening LaGrange Road through Tinley Park and Orland Park and building and widening 143rd Street in Homer Glen.

Later this year, work will start on a long-awaited overpass on U.S. 30 over the Canadian National Railway tracks in Lynwood and an interchange at Interstate 57 and Stuenkel Road.

Along LaGrange Road, most of the work is taking place north of 143rd Street and south of 159th Street, with excavation work and construction of retaining walls moving ahead, said Mike Wiater, an Illinois Department of Transportation construction supervisor for South Cook and Will counties.

“We did some work over the winter until things got really cold, and we had to shut down,” he said.

Wiater said the “vast majority” of utility relocation has been finished, allowing for additional excavation to pour concrete for new lanes. LaGrange Road is being widened to three lanes in each direction from 131st Street in Palos Park to 179th Street in Tinley Park. The $95 million project will continue into next year.

While new lanes are being created, “we should maintain two lanes in each direction for the most part,” although there could be temporary lane closures, Wiater said.

Two Will County portions of the 143rd Street corridor project are expected to be completed this summer — widening and reconstruction from I-355 to State Street and widening from Will-Cook to Bell roads, according to Bruce Gould, Will County’s transportation director. Those portions of the project started in 2013.

Additionally, the intersection of 143rd and State streets will have new signals installed over the next year, Gould said. Work associated with that portion of the corridor project, which is sponsored by Homer Glen, began in April and is expected to be finished by November 2015.

Other legs of the 143rd Street project, including the widening of a section from Lemont to Bell roads and improvements at 143rd and Bell, won’t be started this year.

Last week, Gov. Pat Quinn’s office announced that the state was allocating $1.6 million for another Homer Glen project — improving the intersection of 151st Street and Peskes Road. The work includes widening, resurfacing and traffic signals.

Other work scheduled in Will County includes the reconstruction and widening of Laraway Road at Spencer and Cedar roads, beginning in August, according to the county. Construction on the intersection with Spencer is due to wrap up in November, while work at Laraway and Cedar is set to conclude in November 2015.

Quinn’s office also said IDOT will provide $664,000 for improvements on Oak Park Avenue between South and 183rd streets in Tinley Park. Along with widening and resurfacing, the work will include installation of a multi-use path.

While the Illinois Toll Highway Authority continues work on the initial phase of a full interchange linking I-57 and I-294, IDOT is working on a complementary project to rebuild and widen 147th Street between Kedzie Avenue and Dixie Highway/Western Avenue through Posen and Harvey. Wiater said the bulk of the work will be finished this fall.

“It was an old roadway and didn’t have left-turn lanes at a lot of intersections,” he said. “Simply because of the age, it (road) needed to be reconstructed.”

Ramps connecting northbound I-57 to the northbound Tri-State Tollway and southbound I-294 with southbound I-57 are scheduled to be completed later this year. The project also calls for an exit ramp from southbound I-294 to 147th Street as well as an entrance ramp from 147th to northbound I-294.

Another project on I-57 scheduled to start next month is the repair of bridge joints over the Calumet Sag Channel, Wiater said. There will be lane closures involved, reducing traffic to two lanes.

He said construction of the I-57/Stuenkel Road interchange and the U.S. 30 overpass in Lynwood is expected to begin this summer.

As part of its 2008 purchase of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railroad — done to speed the flow of its freight trains through the Chicago area — Canadian National was required to pay 78.5 percent of the cost of the overpass at U.S. 30, just north of Sauk Trail and near the Illinois/Indiana state line. IDOT has estimated that the project will cost more than $33 million.

Another major road project could see some initial work starting this year. Widening 159th Street from Gougar Road in New Lenox to Ravinia Avenue in Orland Park is part of IDOT’s current road improvement program, but the state is still buying up land for the project, which will add a lane in each direction.

IDOT expects to award a contract this year to clear trees on property it has acquired, which would precede the relocation of utility lines along 159th Street.

Wiater said that, though abnormal, the recent winter shouldn’t cause any unexpected problems with the road construction.

“We got kind of spoiled the last few years,” he said, referring to mild winters that allowed contractors to get an early spring start. “For the 30 years I’ve been here, it’s been early to mid-April when the ground kind of thawed out and contractors can start working. It’s (this year) a little later compared to that.”



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