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Chicago’s Jane Byrne Interchange project reaches the finish line

Gov. JB Pritzker joined IDOT, local officials and community leaders Dec. 14 to celebrate the completion of the Jane Byrne Interchange reconstruction. This major, multiyear project modernized a critical transportation hub for the region and entire Midwest. One of the biggest projects in state history, the rebuilt Jane Byrne Interchange eliminates a notorious national bottleneck while improving safety, efficiency and mobility across multiple modes of transportation. The new Jane Byrne Interchange also provides the public with better connections to communities and jobs throughout the Chicago area.

"Today, I'm proud to announce the reconstruction of the Jane Byrne Interchange is finally completed," Pritzker said. "For almost a decade, Illinois' first-rate workforce worked day in and day out to entirely reconstruct this massive project. And in the last few years, IDOT accelerated and streamlined the construction process to get this done — and the great men and women of Illinois' construction industry persevered. They are the ones who made this happen. I know I speak for all of Illinois when I say that we couldn't be more grateful for the labor and dedication of every single worker on this project."

The $806.4 million project is the first major rehabilitation of the Jane Byrne since it was originally constructed more than 60 years ago. The final pieces of the project concluded Dec. 15 with the opening of a second lane on the ramps connecting the inbound Eisenhower to the outbound Kennedy and Dan Ryan as well as the ramps connecting Jackson Boulevard and Adams Street to the outbound Kennedy. A fourth lane on the Dan Ryan and Kennedy lanes through the interchange also opened Dec. 15.

The new Jane Byrne Interchange is predicted to result in a 50% reduction in vehicle delays, saving motorists an annual 5 million hours previously spent sitting in traffic. Vehicle emissions are anticipated to reduce by a third, with annual gas consumption decreasing by 1.6 million gallons a year. Crashes are predicted to go down 25%.

A tri-level interchange situated between the city's central business district, the University of Illinois Chicago campus and the vibrant Greektown neighborhood, the Jane Byrne connects travelers from the Kennedy and Dan Ryan expressways (I-90/94) and the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) with the principal route in and out of Chicago in Ida B. Wells Drive. The interchange also serves as a local travel corridor for businesses, residences and other attractions via neighborhood streets, the Chicago Transit Authority, and bike and pedestrian accommodations.

"The Jane Byrne Interchange was one of the most complex projects in the country and most significant ever at IDOT. I'm proud and happy that we could deliver these improvements and benefits," said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. "I wish to thank the public and our stakeholders for their input and patience throughout construction. Working together, we have created an asset for the city and the state that will last for generations."

Named after Jane Byrne to honor the former Chicago mayor and the first woman elected to lead a major American city, the interchange serves almost 400,000 vehicles a day, one out of four of those being trucks. Prior to its reconstruction, the interchange struggled to perform under its original 1958 design, resulting in congestion for the majority of the day and frequent unsafe conditions. The American Transportation Research Institute and the Federal Highway Administration at one point rated the interchange the country's No. 1 bottleneck for freight.

Construction started on the new Jane Byrne in 2013 with the Morgan Street bridge, the first of 10 bridges carrying local traffic that needed to be rebuilt to accommodate the interchange's reconfigured footprint. To keep the interchange open to traffic throughout construction, the project was separated into 35 separate pieces and contracts to best manage sequencing and staging.

The project used approximately 52 million pounds of steel, the equivalent of 2.5 times the weight of the Eiffel Tower, as well as 2,100 miles of rebar, the distance between Chicago and San Francisco. More than 223,000 cubic yards of concrete were required, which would fill 25,000 trucks. Installed were 12 miles of storm sewer, enough to connect Wrigley Field and O'Hare International Airport. More details and other facts can be found at janebyrneinterchange.org/.

Improvements and benefits include:

  • A total of 19 bridges and 21 ramps reconstructed or rehabilitated.
  • A new northbound collector-distributor road on the Dan Ryan and Kennedy expressways to reduce conflict points as well as frequent weaving and merging by relocating the left-hand entrance ramps at Jackson and Adams streets and separating the exits ramps to Washington Boulevard, Lake, Madison, and Randolph streets from mainline traffic.
  • A new storm water detention system under the Polk Street accident investigation site, providing additional storage capacity for runoff during rain events to reduce localized flooding.
  • An additional lane in each direction to the mainline Kennedy and Dan Ryan, increasing capacity and reducing congestion.
  • An additional lane to the inbound Eisenhower ramp to the outbound Kennedy and to the inbound Dan Ryan flyover ramp to the outbound Eisenhower.
  • Wider ramps to replace single-lane ramps with no shoulders, providing additional room for first responders and stalled vehicles.
  • Local bridges rebuilt with either wider sidewalks, bike lanes or both at Harrison, Morgan,
  • Taylor and Halsted streets as well as Jackson Boulevard, meeting the goals of the Chicago Department of Transportation's Chicago Streets for Cycling plan.
  • Peoria Street bridge rebuilt as an expansive walkway, with the Blue Line's UIC-Halsted station rehabilitated and an elevator added to provide access for customers with disabilities. A bus-only lane was added to Van Buren Street.
  • New LED lighting and improved signage for easier navigation, along with reconstructed or rehabilitated retaining and noise walls throughout the project area.
  • A $10 million expansion of green spaces, including retaining wall vines, aesthetic upgrades, landscaping and tree plantings.

The timeline and estimated cost to rebuild the Jane Byrne expanded since the planning stages due to a variety of factors. They included: limiting overnight and weekend construction to minimize effects on the public; staggering inbound and outbound Eisenhower improvements by separate years to lessen impact on traffic; and proceeding with an emergency project to rebuild the Stevenson Expressway (Interstate 55) and DuSable Lake Shore Drive interchange and suspending elements of the Jane Byrne to avoid having two entry points in and out of the city under construction at the same time.

Under Gov. Pritzker's leadership and directive to improve on keeping costs and schedules consistent throughout projects, IDOT is delivering the Jane Byrne according to projections committed to the governor in 2019.

Additionally, in keeping with Gov. Pritzker's commitment to create opportunity through investing in infrastructure and build a diverse workforce, IDOT exceeded the participation goal on the Jane Byrne for minority- and female-owned businesses involved in the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program. The initial goal of 18.23% for minority- and female-owned firms with contracts on the project was surpassed and reached 19.54%, representing a total value of $117.6 million to disadvantaged and emerging businesses. The project also provided thousands of hours in on-the-job training through the Highway Construction Careers Training Program, which pairs with local community colleges to help prepare minority groups, disadvantaged people and women for careers in the construction trades.