Illinois to Improve Highways in $34.6 Billion Program

Illinois highways
Illinois Department of Transportation

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A new analytical tool was used to select road projects that add highway capacity in a six-year, $34.6 billion Illinois state transportation program.

Increasing highway capacity includes constructing new lanes on an existing road, building a new/expanded interchange and adding a road, new roadway alignment or new/expanded bridge.

Illinois Department of Transportation’s Data-Driven Decisions Tool helped state officials decide highway projects to fund that would most benefit the state under the Multi-Year Program (fiscal years 2023 to 2028) spending package announced Aug. 12 by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Pritzker said $20 billion (58% of the total) is earmarked for transportation “including 2,500 miles of roads and nearly 10 million square feet of bridge deck and $10 billion going towards our state’s rail and transit systems, airports and ports.”

About $6.4 billion will be spent to improve bridges with $6.3 billion for roadway maintenance including highway reconstruction and preservation. Other expenditures will be $2.5 billion for system support (engineering and land acquisition), $2 billion for strategic expansion (adding new lanes to existing roads) and $1.6 billion for safety and system modernization.

The Data-Driven Decisions Tool, which ranks projects based on five goals and 11 selection criteria, is still being refined with possible elements to be added. Its purpose is to rate projects and provide metrics used in decision-making. IDOT’s funding for transportation projects comes from federal money, Rebuild Illinois allocations, a motor fuel tax and a portion of motor vehicle registration fees.

Evaluating 34 projects for inclusion in the Multi-Year Program, the tool uses 11 selection criteria within five goal areas:

  • Traffic operations/congestion — annual average daily traffic, change in annual vehicle miles traveled and travel time index
  • Safety — crash frequency
  • Economic development — National Highway Freight Network, major development and intermodal accessibility
  • Environmental impacts/livability — environmental justice, environmental impact level and resiliency
  • Regional rating — input for IDOT districts about the importance of a project

Only 13 projects (from 34) were approved for state investment improvements: Interstate 90 Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago, I-55 and I-72 in Springfield, I-74 in Champaign, I-57 in Marion, I-270 in Madison County, U.S. Route 47 in Lake County, Illinois Route (IL) 47 in Pingree Grove, IL 13 in Williamson County and U.S. 34 in Henderson County, IL 3 in Madison County as well as two interchanges (I-74/IL 5 in Rock Island County and I-57 at the IL 17 Interchange) in Kankakee County.

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IDOT worked with the Federal Highway Administration to develop the tool to ensure it invests in highway capacity projects throughout the state because most of its limited transportation funding was allocated to system maintenance projects.

The tool was developed as a result of last year’s successful passage of House Bill 253 in the Illinois General Assembly. Supported by the governor, the law required IDOT to establish and implement a performance program to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the state’s transportation system.

According to IDOT, the concept of Data-Driven Decisions for selecting projects is used throughout the nation and encouraged by the U.S. Department of Transportation.