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Projects in Illinois and Kentucky Win Regional America’s Transportation Awards

by: Jessica Hoover
Jane Byrne Interchange Project
Jane Byrne Interchange Project
Jane Byrne Interchange Project
Jane Byrne Interchange Project
Mayfield Tornado Response
Mayfield Tornado Response
Mayfield Tornado Response
Mayfield Tornado Response
Weber Road Diverging Diamond Interchange
Weber Road Diverging Diamond Interchange
Weber Road Diverging Diamond Interchange
Weber Road Diverging Diamond Interchange
Three state department of transportation (DOT) projects in Illinois and Kentucky won regional awards in the 2023 America’s Transportation Awards competition, created by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The competition recognizes DOTs for making a difference in their community, with each project falling into one of three categories: Quality of Life/Community Development, Operations Excellence, and Best Use of Technology & Innovation.

“In addressing the transportation challenges of today and tomorrow, state DOTs demonstrate a strong determination to bring innovative solutions to their communities,” said Jim Tymon, Executive Director of AASHTO. “The America’s Transportation Awards program serves as a testament to their endeavors, and I am excited to kick off the regional awards with MAASTO’s pioneering projects. These projects play a vital role in improving safety, enhancing mobility, and revitalizing transportation resources for drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit customers alike.”

Twenty-three projects in the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO) region were nominated by DOTs for this year’s competition. The following three projects in the Construction Digest area were winners of regional America’s Transportation Awards.

Jane Byrne Interchange (Quality of Life/Community Development, Large Category)
One of the largest projects in state history, the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) Jane Byrne Interchange project has significantly improved safety and mobility in the heart of downtown Chicago. Originally completed in the early 1960s, the interchange — used by over 400,000 vehicles daily — was nearing the end of its engineering lifespan and was often ranked as one of the slowest, most congested highway freight bottlenecks in the nation.

IDOT’s more than $800 million project revitalized the Jane Byrne Interchange, transforming it into a multimodal corridor for businesses, residences, and other attractions. Construction commenced in late 2013, and the project was divided into 35 separate contracts or project components. This unique approach allowed IDOT to construct specific interchange sections while design work for other components continued simultaneously.

The project also included the reconstruction of four bridges over the interchange, making room for wider sidewalks and bike lanes. In addition, Peoria Street was transformed into an expansive walkway, and the Chicago Transit Authority's Blue Line station was rehabilitated — adding an elevator to enhance accessibility for customers with disabilities.

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"We pride ourselves on innovative infrastructure improvements that boost the overall quality of life for our residents," said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. "These awards provide welcome recognition of these efforts and help remind the public that IDOT is constantly employing new and effective ways to modernize our infrastructure and improve access for all."

Mayfield Tornado Response (Operations Excellence, Small Category)
On December 10, 2021, a severe tornado wreaked havoc in the town of Mayfield, Kentucky. The tornado created extensive damage across the community, with debris obstructing roadways and the loss of essential landmarks and street signs. With hundreds of residents homeless and in urgent need of shelter, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) began restoring transportation connectivity so other recovery efforts could begin.

A $10 million initiative was launched to aid the town's recovery from the natural disaster, encompassing tasks ranging from the deployment of trailers for temporary housing to the reopening of roadways. KYTC District 1 crews divided the city into zones and reopened all streets for basic travel within a single day. Within four days, the streets were effectively cleared of debris.

“From working to fix structural damage to moving travel trailers to providing medium-term housing for our Kentucky families displaced, these leaders went above and beyond,” Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said. “Thank you to all of our fellow Team Kentucky members at the Transportation Cabinet for your dedication and commitment to the people of Mayfield and all across our commonwealth.”

“I am so thankful to be a part of the team and help those who were impacted,” said Jason Siwula, Deputy Highway Engineer at KYTC. “Without the work of the Transportation Cabinet partnering with others, things would have taken additional time that a lot of those families didn’t have. I am just so thankful to be a part of those efforts.”

Modernizing a Gateway: Weber Road Diverging Diamond Interchange (Best Use of Technology & Innovation, Medium Category)
Since the opening of the Weber Road interchange in 1990, the surrounding population in Bolingbrook and Romeoville has nearly doubled in size. To accommodate rising traffic volumes, population influx, and growth in job openings, this $96 million project widened Weber Road and reconfigured the interchange into a diverging-diamond design. By redirecting vehicles to the opposite side of Weber Road and eliminating left turns across traffic, the project’s design aims to decrease crashes and improve pedestrian and bicycle access across Interstate 55.

Along with the construction of the diverging-diamond interchange, the project involved the addition of a third lane in each direction along Weber Road, spanning from Rodeo Drive/Remington Boulevard to Normantown Road. This expansion alleviates congestion issues and ensures quicker and safer access to the expressway for the approximately 35,000 vehicles that traverse the interchange daily.

The project modernized traffic signals at Normantown Road, Remington Boulevard/Windham Parkway, and Rodeo Drive/Remington Boulevard, as well as at the interchange ramps. New LED lighting, improved drainage systems, raised medians, and enhanced landscaping were also incorporated along Weber Road. Additionally, sidewalks and a newly constructed multiuse path were added and connect to other local trails.

“This [project] is a win for motorists, bikers, and pedestrians who will see added lanes and modernized traffic signals — simultaneously improving safety and efficiency,” said Illinois Governor JB Pritzker. “Investments, like the one along Weber Road, are what our Rebuild Illinois capital plan is all about: making sure we have good jobs and the roads to get there and building a state where opportunity is just around the corner for everyone, no matter where you’re standing.”

Next Phase of the Competition
The three highest-scoring projects from each regional America’s Transportation Awards competition (a total of 12 projects) will continue on to compete for two national awards, the Grand Prize and the People’s Choice Award. In November, AASHTO will reveal the winners at its annual meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Top 12 projects in alphabetical order by state are:

  • Florida Department of Transportation’s Hurricane Ian Sanibel Island Emergency Access
  • Georgia Department of Transportation’s Historic 5th Street Pedestrian Bridge Rehabilitation Project
  • Illinois Department of Transportation’s Jane Byrne Interchange
  • Iowa Department of Transportation’s Adult Changing Facilities in Iowa Rest Areas
  • Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Mayfield Tornado Response
  • Maine Department of Transportation’s The Veranda Plan
  • North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Flood Warning System
  • Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Emergency Fern Hollow Bridge Replacement Project
  • South Dakota Department of Transportation’s U.S. Highway 83 Corridor Improvements and Reconstruction
  • Texas Department of Transportation’s Mobility35 Initiative to Address Homelessness Program
  • Utah Department of Transportation’s Teamed-Up for Transit: UDOT and UTA Partner to Improve Mobility for Local Community
  • Vermont Agency of Transportation’s Lamoille Valley Rail Trail
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