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Illinois DOT Reconstructs Weber Road Interchange on I-55 for an Easier Commute to Chicago

by: Larry Bernstein
Crews for Judlau Contracting, Inc. spread concrete on a section of the Weber Road interchange reconstruction on I-55.
Crews for Judlau Contracting, Inc. spread concrete on a section of the Weber Road interchange reconstruction on I-55.
Many people are drawn to big cities for the many benefits they have to offer. The growth of a city often means the growth of the suburban areas in the vicinity. This scenario has played out in Illinois and is the prime reason for the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) project – I-55 at Weber Road.

Bolingbrook, Illinois, is about 30 miles southwest of Chicago via I-55. Weber Road crosses I-55 and a 1.5-mile stretch of it that runs from Bolingbrook to Romeoville makes up the project limits. This section of Weber Road and the interchange at I-55 are critical commuting links for the region and serve a number of businesses and industries locally.

When the interchange was originally construction in 1990, the surrounding area was used for farming and had just a few residential subdivisions. The population has nearly doubled in the county since then, and the interchange and roadway are congested. Plus, traffic volumes are anticipated to continue to increase as growth continues in the region.

“Improvements are needed to the interchange in order to deliver a high level of service to the public,” says Phillip Gibson, IDOT Resident Engineer.

Choosing a Diverging Diamond
The main focus of the project is the construction of a diverging diamond interchange (DDI) at Weber Road and I-55. The team decided to go with a DDI to improve the interchange since it eliminates left turn conflicts across live traffic. Therefore, traffic entering I-55 is allowed to free flow either left or right without having to cross opposing traffic. Traffic exiting I-55 will be controlled by traffic signals but signal delays are reduced because the interchange design allows a reduction in the needed number of signal phases. An added benefit of the design is it makes it much more difficult for wrong-way entry to the interstate ramps.

Other work involved in the project includes the reconstructing and widening of Weber Road from two lanes to three lanes in each direction over a 3-mile stretch of road. The team will do a complete re-decking of the existing bridge structure carrying Weber Road over I-55 as well as constructing a new bridge structure adjacent to the existing bridge structure as part of the diverging diamond interchange.

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Additional work includes the construction of several retaining walls, a noise wall, storm sewer and other drainage improvements, traffic signal improvements, and construction of sidewalks and shared use paths.

A few of the elements of the project are aimed at improving motorist safety. These include installation of modernized traffic signals and intersection improvements, such as enhanced lighting at multiple intersections and lighting on high mast towers at the interchange ramps.

Constructing in a Busy Roadway
“Road construction projects in the Chicagoland area are always challenging,” says Gibson, “since we are performing construction activities on a highly active and busy expressway.”

A busy area also means there are many other things happening concurrently. “The most complex challenge is the coordination of work with other nearby projects,” Gibson says. “This contract is immediately adjacent to an associated Will County contract to the south.”

To clarify, IDOT split the work along Weber Road into two contracts and let them both at the same time. Weber Road is under the jurisdiction of Will County. The work directly at the interchange will be completed under the IDOT contract in order to tie into the ramp work. Work both north and south of the interchange is the responsibility of the county.

Because there are two separate projects happening simultaneously, close coordination is required between the contracts and contractors to ensure smooth progress. There are also other projects both north and south of Weber Road along I-55 that require coordination.

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All the construction in the area has also impacted staging. “Utility relocations have been performed both before and during construction due to staging requirements,” says Gibson.

Unexpected Delays
When the project began in the spring of 2019, it was originally scheduled to be complete in the summer of 2021. However, IDOT is now projecting the completion of the project to be in the beginning of 2022. The majority of contract delays have been due to utility relocations.

The total awarded contract for the project corridor was $68 million. That includes $20 million for one project and $48 million for the second. The second project contains 21 different funding combinations with various distributions of percentage. However, the majority of the work is being funded by a 90/10 federal and state split. The local municipalities and local government – The Village of Bolingbrook, the Village of Romeoville and Will County – are kicking in funding for several parts of the projects.

The second project has gone over budget by approximately $4 million. The main reason for cost increases include utility delays, adjustments to sequencing and staging in order to keep the project moving along, design adjustments due to various unknowns found during construction, rising material costs, and keeping the roadway open throughout construction.

Serving as the contractor for the second project is Judlau Contracting, Inc., which is part of OHL.

As the outer suburbs of Chicago, including Will County, continues to grow, the area experiences more traffic. There’s a need to increase safety and enhance capacity for commuters. IDOT’s I-55 at Weber Road project will improve the trip to and from the big city.

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