Starting Saturday, a portion of Interstate 255 will be shut down in both directions for five months, kicking off a 10-month project to renovate what the state considers one of its worst roads.
The Illinois Department of Transportation’s first phase of repairs to a crumbling section of I-255, one of many projects under the Rebuild Illinois capital plan, begins by closing down all lanes of a roughly 4-mile stretch between I-55/70 at Exit 25 in Collinsville and Exit 20 at I-64 west of Fairview Heights.
Here are five things you need to know ahead of the closure.
What's being fixed, and how long will it take?
The repairs include resurfacing seven miles of I-255 with asphalt from Collinsville Road to Illinois 15 in addition to “significant bridge repairs,” safety improvements and draining upgrades.
The I-255 renovation project begins early Saturday morning and will take place in two phases separated by Interstate 64.
The first 5-month phase will cover a 5-mile stretch from I-64 to Collinsville Road. The first phase is planned to wrap up by July. The second phase on the southern portion will stretch from I-64 to Illinois 15. Work on the second phase is planned to begin once the first phase is complete.
The entire project is expected to wrap up Nov. 24.
Why close all lanes?
Lora Rensing, IDOT District 8 project implementation engineer, said a full closure is not only saving the state roughly $14 million but will cut a large chunk off the project’s expected timetable. If the project were done in phases with only partial lane closures, it could take almost four years to complete, Rensing said.
“We looked at a lot of options for this closure, and what we determined is closing one section at a time is just not feasible,” she said. “Closing two sections in both directions is our best option.”
The full closure also is to ensure the safety of workers and drivers, Rensing added.
“A full closure is the safest, the best and the fastest," IDOT engineer Joel Cumby said. "It’s safest for the motorists and safest for the workers. It’s the best because in the end the taxpayers end up with a better product.”
What will it cost, and who will pay?
The work on I-255 is expected to cost about $64 million. Paul Wappel, IDOT public information officer, said that’s roughly $14 million less than it would cost if it were completed piecemeal over an estimated four years.
Rensing added that the contractors on the project have major incentives to finish on time, if not early. She said for every day, up to 20 days, the project is completed early, contractors can earn $50,000. For every day the project runs late, however, contractors will have to pay the state $50,000.
Funding comes from Illinois’ bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital plan aimed to repair large swaths of infrastructure in the state.
The planned spending includes:
$33.2 billion for transportation projects.
$4.3 billion for state facilities including deferred maintenance, among other things.
$3.5 billion for education projects.
$1.9 billion for economic and community development.
$1.2 billion for environment and conservation projects.
$465 million for health care and human services.
$420 million for broadband deployment.
What are the best alternative routes?
IDOT officials are recommending drivers use Illinois 3, 15, 157, 158, 159 and 161 as alternate routes during the first phase of construction.
They are also recommending that drivers prepare before the project begins by out the best possible route for their day-to-day travel. Cumby said Illinois 157 will most likely see the biggest increase in traffic and cautioned drivers to prepare for that possibility.
IDOT is working with area truckers, rerouting truck traffic as another safety measure.
It will be monitoring the alternative routes as time goes on with the help of drones and Illinois State Police. That information could lead to adjustments to the alternate routes, Cumby said.
“We’ll be providing media updates to let everyone know which routes are being overused and which routes are maybe being underutilized can could take more capacity,” he said.
Cumby added that there has been a large amount of preemptive work on all of the alternate routes ahead of the I-255 closure.
Can weather cause delays?
At a press conference on the renovation project Tuesday, Cumby said contractors are “confident” they’ll be working from the first day of the project. He said inclement weather isn’t expected to delay work on the project.
He added that crews would be paying extra attention to the alternate routes during inclement weather.
For more information on the project, visit http://www.idot.illinois.gov/projects/i-255-resurface-project.
Kavahn Mansouri is a reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.
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