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Local Column

Olson: I-88 construction work not nearly done

Interstate 88 has been a real drag since the construction started.  

I’ve done my best to avoid it as much as I can, but there have been a few times this summer that I’ve had to take it, and it’s suffering.

Coming back home from the east, as I usually do, you have to cross that 15-mile no-man’s land between Route 47 and Peace Road. What used to fly by smoothly (at exactly 70 mph) becomes an iron bladder challenge at 45 mph or slower when the traffic backs up.

If you’re regularly in one of the 40,000 vehicles that use this stretch of the Reagan Tollway every day, you know too well that it’s down to one lane for most of 37 miles between Route 56 in Sugar Grove and Route 251 in Rochelle.

The lanes are being resurfaced, and they’ve trenched out the shoulders to install new drainage pipes. The work is part of the Tollway’s 15-year, $14 billion capital program, funded by the toll-paying drivers of Illinois who pay at least 75 cents a trip, and the out-of-staters and iPass deniers who pay double. (Welcome to Illinois.)

There also has been a series of road closures at the interchanges at Peace and Annie Glidden roads, which have led to some detours but, at least at Peace Road, have made it really easy to head north. There’s no more traffic coming at you.

But this one lane business is cramping everyone’s style. When will it end? I asked Tollway spokesman Dan Rozek this week.

“All we’re saying is by the end of the year,” Rozek said. “We expect the shoulder and roadway work to be done this year.”

Rozek said weather can make a big difference in construction schedules, so the Tollway doesn’t get too specific about its time table for completing jobs.

But it’s going to go on for some weeks to come. So plan your routes – and your potty breaks – accordingly.

The closures on the toll bridges at Peace and Annie Glidden roads aren’t supposed to last nearly so long. Closure of northbound Peace over the tollway is expected to last only through August, and the eastbound exit ramp at Peace is expected to reopen in mid-August.

The Reagan Tollway always has been one of the easiest in the state to drive. There’s not a lot of traffic on it, relatively speaking, but being close to the Chicago area – and a toll road – it’s usually in pretty good shape. So when the work’s over, the road should ride like a dream.

Console yourself with that thought when the traffic is a nightmare.

• Eric Olson is general manager of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841 ext. 2257, email eolson@shawmedia.com, or follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.

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