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US 20 Freeport to Galena (Glacier Shadow Pass)

A regional planning program, whether undertaken because of a proposed highway, a need for jobs locally or for recreation and/or preservation needs, can have implications beyond just any single purpose. A large, regional land use planning process touches all aspects of life and livelihood in an area. Carried out properly, it characterizes and accommodates all regional needs. It can fashion a future with a purpose.

To further encourage all the varied interests that will be part of the highway planning project to focus on its regionwide economic, social and environmental implications, IDOT has developed a theme for the corridor. It is one that draws on the unique and beautiful natural surroundings in Stephenson and Jo Daviess Counties.

From the land and its physical qualities grow the lifestyles and livelihoods of the people dwelling there. From it also grows a sense that a community’s or region’s destiny lies in nurturing the land and protecting its offerings. Ancient peoples who lived very close to the land were no more bound to it’s care than we are today. As always, tomorrow depends on wise choices today.

The theme Glacier Shadow Pass captures the past, how the land came to be, and what it may mean for the future of local residents in all of its prismatic facets—agricultural, economic, environmental, recreational and in the relationships that knit these pieces of the human fabric together. It is a departure point setting future agendas that link us to the past.

With the numerous studies and care that will be taken to perform a complete investigation, it will be a number of years before a four-lane freeway could be completely finished in northwest Illinois. During the period of planning and assessment the State of Illinois will continue to make improvements to US Route20 to make it as safe as possible for travelers.

In the meantime the theme, Glacier Shadow Pass, will help individuals to refocus again and again on the value of the land and its people. It will outlast the construction of a highway and provide an impetus for shared visions, goals and decision-making for years to come.

Special Updated - June 2014

The Illinois Department of Transportation is initiating a funding and financing study for the US 20 corridor. The study is expected to be completed in October of 2014.

Note: IDOT projects typically have three distinct phases. Phase I (or the project Study) consists of developing the project scope, environmental studies and preliminary design of a project. Phase II (Design) consists of refining the design to develop contract plans and land acquisition. Phase III (Construction) consists of the actual construction of the project.


The purpose of the proposed project is to provide a transportation facility that properly addresses existing and projected system deficiencies and seeks to improve the safety and efficiency of the transportation system in northwest Illinois. The US Route 20 improvement would provide a high-type highway with an appropriate connection to the four-lane facility west of Illinois Route 84 (northwest of Galena) and extend 47 miles to the east connecting to a previously approved four-lane facility near Freeport. This improvement and the Mississippi River crossing (Julien Dubuque Bridge) are the only remaining two-lane sections of US Route 20 left to be studied for multi-lane improvements between Waterloo, Iowa and Rockford, Illinois.


The need for the proposed project is based on several aspects of the currently inadequate transportation system. The study addresses the need for the proposed action in terms of regional economic characteristics, system capacity, safety concerns, community access, and system continuity.


Due to the proximity of the Chicago area there has been a dramatic growth in the number of second homes, along with the recent increases in tourism and recreational related activities and shifts in employment trends in the southern and central regions of JoDaviess County, which have all contributed to a doubling of traffic on US Route 20 over the past two decades. Local commuting patterns and increased truck travel have also contributed to the additional traffic on US Route 20. In addition to the significantly increased travel due to the tourist attractions and developments, there are more local trips and greater truck transport demands.


Existing traffic and traffic projections for existing US Route 20 for the year 2020 indicate the need for a four-lane facility. Current IDOT criteria state that a four-lane facility is warranted when traffic reaches a two-way Design Hourly Volume (DHV) of 800. Presently this section of existing US Route 20 generally exceeds this with traffic volumes ranging from 780 to 1100 DHV.


US Route 20 in the project area was constructed through a land corridor whose topographic and geologic features are characterized by undulating terrain, with steep ridges and narrow valleys and bedrock strata that lie close to the surface. These physical conditions directly influenced the highway’s alignment configuration which often followed existing contours of the area's ridges and valleys.

The existing geometry of US Route 20 also reduces the efficiency to move people and goods through the region. Traffic backups develop at many locations behind slow moving vehicles, a result of extensive lengths of no-passing zones, restricted sight distances, steep grades and, generally, only one travel lane operating in each direction. Most of existing US Route 20 between Galena and Freeport does not meet IDOT’s current design standards for rural highways. Nearly 50 percent of existing US Route 20 comprises vertical and horizontal curves that do not meet IDOT’s current standards for rural highways. In addition, more than 10 percent of this section has grades steeper than the maximum grade allowed for a roadway to remain in place.

According to current IDOT design standards for a two-lane roadway, passing sight distance (passing zones) should be available for at least 40 percent of a roadway’s length. Passing zones account for about 35 percent of the roadway. Actual passing opportunities are available much less than this percentage due to the high volume of traffic.

From an operational perspective, US Route 20’s history of relatively high accident rates is indicative of substandard roadway geometry. Although many of the accidents along US Route 20 may be attributable to geometric deficiencies, straightening the curves and widening the shoulders will not correct all the safety problems along this section of US Route 20.


The IDOT Office of Planning and Programming classifies US Route 20 as a Major Arterial Highway within the rural State highway system. In general, this means the route connects large towns or cities, “long-distance trip” traffic generators, and integrates interstate and intercounty services, while providing a high degree of mobility at high operating speeds and direct routing for long trips.

The proposed project is needed to complete the missing four-lane section on US Route 20 between Illinois Route 84 northwest of Galena and the Freeport Bypass. Upon completion of this project and the Mississippi Bridge at Dubuque, US Route 20 would have continuous four-lane capacity through northwestern Illinois and northern Iowa from Rockford to Waterloo.

The entire project stretches approximately 47 miles from just west of Freeport to the hills north of Galena and can be broken down into three sections (Freeport to Stockton, Stockton to Galena and the Galena Bypass). The proposed four-lane freeway fills the last major gap of two-lane highway left on US Route 20 between Rockford, Illinois to Waterloo, Iowa, transitioning from the gentle rolling terrain of Stephenson County to constant undulating hills of JoDaviess County. As the proposed freeway blends effortlessly into the countryside, it showcases the many towns, farmsteads, and tourist attractions. Containing numerous bridges, many of which span over 1500 feet, the preferred Longhollow alignment melds gently with the environmentally sensitive area. The new freeway will provide a more operationally effective way to travel this section for both passenger car and the commercial truck without a severe impact on its intended route.


The current study is scheduled for design approval in 2004. Phase II (Contract Plans and Land Acquisition) is scheduled to start shortly after. Beginning in 2004 and possibly extending to 2010, the section called the Galena Bypass will lead the way as the only portion that has funding for final design and purchase of right-of-way. Construction could follow as soon as 2007 provided funding becomes available.

Preferred Alternative Route


This Phase 1 engineering study was concluded on September 22, 2005 with the signing of the Record of Decision by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). This decision concludes that the Selected Alterative (Longhollow Freeway with South Simmons Mound variation) best satisfies the purpose and need, causes the least environmental impacts, and complies with the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA). The FHWA’s decision is based on full consideration of information contained in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), public input received at various public information meetings held throughout the course of the study, and public hearings held on June 25, 2003 in Freeport and June 26, 2003 in Galena.

The FHWA‘s decision allowed the Selected Alternative to be advanced through detailed design and construction. The Galena Bypass segment of the proposed freeway was the first segment to receive funding for design engineering. The first stage of this detailed design involved the preparation earthwork plans for the Galena Bypass. These plans were completed in May of 2013. Additional funding is necessary in order to continue the design work including preparing the roadway and structure plans for the various bridges located along the proposed bypass. Additional information pertaining to the Galena Bypass project is available at the link provided below.

Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Final Environmental Impact Statement

Record of Decision

Please utilize the feedback form if you have questions or comments regarding this project, or you may access information in the following ways:

  • To view a copy of the Environmental documents, please go to the Schedule & Updates section.
  • Maps, drawings and other pertinent information are available at the following:
IDOT District 2 Office
819 Depot Avenue
Dixon, Illinois 61021
Telephone: (815) 284-2271
Fax:  (815) 284-1667
  • Further questions may be addressed to the following:
IDOT Region 2 EngineerPaul Loete(815) 284-5301
IDOT Program Development EngineerKevin Marchek(815) 284-5307
IDOT Land Acquisition ManagerJim Allen(815)284-5366
IDOT Studies and Plans EngineerMasood Ahmad(815) 284-5351
IDOT Project ManagerSteve Robery(815) 284-5510

Input During Public Hearing Open Houses and Public Comment Period


Two identical meetings were held, one in Freeport and one in Galena. Maps and exhibits of the preferred alternate as well as all the alternates considered were presented. A slide show providing general information and summarizing the status of the project was shown, as was a video presentation of how such a new highway might look after construction.

The hearings were held to present the Department's planned improvements to US Route 20 between Freeport and Galena, and to solicit public input. Approximately 600 people attended the hearing, and many comments were provided. Examples of several of the most frequently asked questions, along with IDOT responses, are provided here.

Comment 1 (Concerns about Emissions and noise from truck traffic)
Comment 2 (Potential visual impacts)
Comment 3 (Suggested expansion of existing US 20)
Comment 4 (Property acquisition questions)

IDOT is currently at the early stages of Phase I for this project. This site will be updated periodically as the project progresses. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) wishes to thank you for your support and patience.

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