The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT or the Department) completed preliminary engineering and environmental studies (Phase I) for the improvement of Interstate 80 (I-80) from Ridge Road to US 30. Two studies were performed which included the long-term study and near-term study of I-80. An explanation of each study is provided below.
The long-term preliminary engineering and environmental study of I-80 evaluated the existing as well as future needs of the corridor. The long-term study needs were identified as: and improvement of safety for all users, improvement of regional and local travel and access, and improvement of facility condition and design. A Project Working Group (PWG) meeting was conducted on September 19, 2013 and again on December 5, 2017 to present the range of alternatives to project stakeholders and seek their input. A public meeting was held on January 31, 2018 to present the range of alternatives and seek input from the public. The alternatives were further evaluated and screened and a preferred alternative was developed. The preferred alternative was presented to the PWG on June 12, 2019, and was presented at a public hearing November 2019.
A near-term preliminary engineering and environmental (Phase I) study has been prepared. This study identified potential near-term pavement, structural, and safety needs in addition to operational improvements which would extend the useful life of the Interstate and improve safety. Proposed improvements include structure rehabilitation and/or replacement, pavement reconstruction, and safety improvements. Portions of these near-term improvements are funded for construction in the Department’s Multi-Year Highway Improvement Program.
IDOT acts as the lead agency for preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the I-80 project. Throughout the study, IDOT worked closely with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to ensure that National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements were satisfied. As such, FHWA and IDOT are the ultimate decision-makers for this project.
The long-term I-80 study utilized the Department’s Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) process to engage the public and solicit their opinions and ideas on improvements that they see as necessary within the project corridor. CSS is a collaborative approach that involves all stakeholders. This approach helps to develop a design that fits into its surroundings and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic, and environmental resources while maintaining safety and mobility. Public involvement was strongly encouraged during the phase I study and the study team proactively sought stakeholder involvement and partnerships.
Stakeholders for a project include any person or organization which has an interest or stake in the project being considered. This can be anything from a small group of residents and businesses affected by the redesign of a rural intersection to thousands of individuals when a major roadway or transit extension is being built. Stakeholders can include residents and landowners near a project, advocates for policy, community and historic interests, elected officials, government agencies, users of the facility, and many others.
Money has been allocated for the preliminary engineering and environmental studies for long-term improvements as well as for design plans to address the identified near-term needs. Funding for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of I-80 structures from Chicago Street to Wisconsin Central (WCL) Railroad/Rowell Avenue, as well as reconstruction of pavement between these structures, is included in the Department’s FY 2019-2024 Proposed Highway Improvement Program. The long-term improvement is included in the Department’s FY 2020-2025 Proposed Highway Improvement Program and are funded through the Rebuild Illinois Capital Program.
The study is now complete. The best way to stay informed of future work is to check the I-80 website at www.I-80Will.com. In addition to the website, we encourage stakeholders to sign up for the mailing list.
Questions and comments can be submitted online via the I-80 website at: www.I-80Will.com or mailed to the below address: Illinois Department of Transportation Bureau of Programming 201 West Center Court Schaumburg, Illinois 60196
The construction contracts will be let, or advertised, following standard IDOT procedures. Contractors pre-qualified in appropriate categories with IDOT would submit bids on advertised contracts. The selection of a successful bidder is based upon the contractor’s prequalification, bonding capacity, bid amount, completeness of bid, financial evaluation, and use of disadvantaged and minority business enterprises, among other criteria.
As part of the I-80 long-term phase I study, traffic noise was evaluated for the proposed roadway improvements to determine noise impacts to adjacent properties. For noise abatement measures such as a noise wall to be considered, a receptor must be impacted by the projected noise levels from the proposed project (66 decibel or greater for exterior residential uses). A receptor location is typically an area of frequent outdoor use such as a patio or backyard. The noise wall must then be feasible, effective and reasonable based on the number of receptors receiving substantial traffic noise reduction benefits. This means the noise wall must be constructible, achieve at least a 5 decibel reduction for at least two impacted receptors to be considered a benefited receptor, achieve at least an 8 decibel reduction for at least one benefited receptor location, cost less than $30,000-$45,000 per benefited receptor (depending upon cost adjustments as listed in IDOT policy), and must be supported by greater than 50% of the benefitted receptors. As described above, a benefitted receptor is defined as a resident or property owner that would receive at least a 5 decibel traffic noise reduction or greater as a result of a noise barrier and will be the basis for sending a viewpoint form. This is because the human ear perceives a 5 decibel change in noise as readily perceptible. Based on responses to the viewpoint form, noise abatement measures may or may not be considered for implementation in the project. Feasible and reasonable noise walls were shown at the Public Hearingand may be viewed here.Benefitted receptor viewpoint forms will be sent out in Phase II Design. For additional information regarding traffic noise, regulations and policy, noise analyses, or noise abatement, we encourage you to access the Department’s internet site http://www.idot.illinois.gov/Assets/uploads/files/Doing-Business/Manuals-Guides-&-Handbooks/Highways/Design-and-Environment/Environment/Highway%20Traffic%20Noise%20Assessment%20Manual%202017.pdf .
Under the required provisions of the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA), the impacts of possible improvement alternatives to the surrounding community and environment were be examined. This included the evaluation of the impacts of potential improvements to cross-streets and the local road network.
The land acquisition process begins with a Plat of Highway (Plat of Survey), followed by an independent appraisal, an offer to purchase, and a period of negotiations. The offer to purchase is based on an appraisal report of the fair market value of the right of way that is to be acquired. The appraisal report will be written by an independent fee appraiser (non-IDOT employee) and reviewed by an independent review appraiser. The offer to purchase is presented to land owners to begin the negotiation process which typically lasts from 60-90 days. If the landowner does not agree with the offer to purchase, they may submit a written counteroffer for IDOT’s consideration. Information submitted to support the counteroffer would be reviewed and IDOT will determine if the counteroffer will be accepted or rejected. Once an agreement is reached on the acquisition price, the transaction will take approximately 2-4 months to complete. If agreement cannot be reached, the matter is referred to the courts for resolution. Referring cases to the court for resolution is always the last resort in the land acquisition process for road projects and ultimately the court decides the dispensation of the case, including final compensation to the property owner. Property owners with possible land acquisition were contacted and invited to the Public Hearing to view the exhibits and speak with IDOT personnel.
The detailed project analysis included the evaluation of the effect of any proposed alternatives on the environment. This resulted in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment and an extensive environmental review process. The phase I study did not define or preclude construction methods, including the latest ‘green’ innovations