Thursday Community Town Hall Meeting Convened State and Local Leaders to Discuss Local Highway Infrastructure Needs
Joliet: As highlighted at a Thursday Town Hall meeting in Joliet – where state transportation leaders gathered to discuss Will County’s highway infrastructure needs – an Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) study released today emphasizes the growing safety and congestion problems on a 16-mile stretch of I-80 that connects six of the county’s municipalities and traverses four waterways.
“The effectiveness of our transportation systems has an almost immeasurable impact on our economic competitiveness and quality of life,” study author and ILEPI Transportation Policy Analyst Mary Craighead said. “Without improvements and repairs, I-80 near Joliet will fail to accommodate the region’s growing population and economic needs, and poses significant safety risks.”
For the study, Craighead analyzed population and employment growth, traffic volumes, highway/bridge design, and accident patterns over the stretch of I-80 connecting Ridge Road and US 30. She found that employment and population in the area are growing more than three times faster than the Chicagoland region as a whole. Much of this growth includes warehousing and distribution businesses, resulting in considerably more heavy truck traffic than comparable highways.
With this stretch of I-80 built in the 1960s, Craighead’s study highlights a range of safety concerns that will only become more acute as the region grows. For example, I-80 near Joliet has higher fatal and overall crash rates than neighboring stretches with even higher traffic volumes, in addition to 26% of its bridges being “structurally deficient” and 46% considered “functionally obsolete.”
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) has recommended the Ridge Road/US 30 corridor of I-80 near Joliet for a $1.45 billion modernization project, which the ILEPI study notes would produce nearly 10,000 new jobs and add almost $400 million to the local economy. While no long-term funding for the project has yet been identified, the Illinois Department of Transportation has committed over $90 million towards short-term repairs through 2020.
Transportation funding – and its connection to the concerns surrounding I-80 – was a key topic of discussion at Thursday’s Community Town Hall in Joliet. Along with local elected leaders and representatives from IDOT and the Illinois Tollway, Craighead stressed the importance of adequate funding to promote a safe and efficient transportation system to support the region’s residents, businesses, and economy.
The Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) is a nonprofit organization which uses advanced statistics, reliable surveying techniques and the latest forecasting models to develop timely and dynamic analysis of policy issues affecting the economies of the Midwest.