Stanley: End of I-55 traffic mess in sight — until spring
BY BRIAN STANLEY Life of Brianemail@example.com October 18, 2013 10:08PM
Updated: November 21, 2013 6:44AM
It seems the day blows up for lot of people on Interstate 55 around Arsenal Road.
With almost daily crashes in that construction zone, I-55 has become a nightmare for drivers heading south from I-80 or north from North River Road.
Several collisions involving
semitrucks have injured people and shut down the highway for hours at a time. A 68-year-old Roselle woman was killed in July when a truck rear-ended her car.
Since July, the truss bridges on I-55 over the Des Plaines River have been under repair, reducing traffic to one lane in both directions during the first significant repair work on the bridges in nearly 20 years.
The 57-year-old bridges are undergoing pier, abutment and structural steel repairs; joint replacement; getting a new deck; and being painted in a $7.65 million project, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
About 40 orange warning signs are posted five miles before the barrels start, but the backup can last for miles, an Illinois State Police trooper said.
“We just have to get everyone to slow down first,” he said.
State police started with one car patrolling the construction zone 24 hours a day but have added a second car on weekdays and a third during the morning and evening rush hours.
A flashing sign that displays a passing vehicle’s speed has been moved recently to a half-mile north of U.S. 6 to give more warning to drivers coming over the hill there.
Ongoing construction on the Arsenal Road overpass, less than a mile from the bridges, hasn’t had as much impact on highway traffic but has increased traffic volume, delays and accidents on nearby side roads, according to state police.
Channahon Police Chief Jeff Wold said during big delays, a lot of southbound drivers get off on U.S. 6 and take the frontage roads to Bluff Road. They’re still stuck behind the construction when they get back onto I-55, but they’ve kept moving to leapfrog ahead of other traffic.
“But from the east side frontage road they have to make a left turn (against traffic) to get back on Bluff, and there’s quite a backup when (waiting) drivers won’t let them in,” Wold said.
A Channahon officer has been regularly directing traffic at that intersection during peak times.
(Incidentally, my conversation with Wold occurred while he was stuck in traffic just before the construction zone.)
Leapfrogging for a mile to get stuck again doesn’t seem like an effective use of drive time, but taking Illinois 53 from Wilmington to Joliet and driving from Shorewood to Morris to eventually swing back on Lorenzo Road seem like really long detours.
IDOT spokeswoman Paris Ervin said the bridge work was originally to be completed in mid-November, but unexpected damage was discovered once the lanes were closed. The southbound bridge needed additional pieces measured and fabricated, so all of the work was delayed.
The good news is that, weather permitting, all the lanes will be open again at the end of November. But there’s more bad news — one lane will have to be shut down in both directions again next spring to finish the northbound bridge. Ervin said no dates have been set yet for that work.
“It is likely that the need for additional repairs will be discovered on the northbound structure once it is closed to traffic and parts of the structure can be opened up to allow a detailed inspection,” she said.
So there’s a golden opportunity in the ferry business. I don’t have all the bugs worked out, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Don’t hold your breath on that, even if you’re taking the frontage roads.