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I-294 expansion plans detailed, questioned at Western Springs open house

Rocco Zucchero, chief planning officer for the Illinois Tollway, presents information about the Interstate 294 expansion project July 16 during an open house in Western Springs.
Rocco Zucchero, chief planning officer for the Illinois Tollway, presents information about the Interstate 294 expansion project July 16 during an open house in Western Springs.

WESTERN SPRINGS – Noise and the impact construction may have on Spring Rock Park were some of the concerns expressed by Western Springs residents during an open house July 16 on the Interstate 294 expansion project.

Plans include adding lanes in the Western Springs area to alleviate congestion, as well as a flex lane a bus could use in heavy traffic to transport riders from towns that are farther south to jobs in Rosemont, Schaumburg and Oak Brook.

“It’s very important to us, to the region,” Illinois Tollway Chief Planning Officer Rocco Zucchero said at the open house.

The $4 billion project, funded entirely with toll money, will stretch from Rosemont/Schiller Park/Franklin Park in the north to Oak Lawn/Hickory Hills in the south. It began this year and will likely conclude in 2026, Zucchero said after the meeting.

With a goal of relieving congestion, I-294 expansion plans near Western Springs include expanding from the existing four lanes in each direction to an additional one to two lanes in each direction in some spots and also a flex lane, Zucchero said. The flex lane, essentially a shoulder, will be built wider so that a Pace bus can travel on it.

The expansion will provide new north-south transit service, currently unavailable, taking bus riders from towns such as Hodgkins to jobs in suburbs farther north.

The Illinois Tollway also hopes to provide solutions for truck parking and flooding with the expansion project, by potentially acquiring land for truck parking and ponds to alleviate flooding, Zucchero said.

Changes will be made in connection with the Hinsdale Oasis and O’Hare Oasis, he said.

In the Western Springs area, existing noise walls will be taken down and replaced with noise walls of “heights that are more representative of the future traffic volume,” Zucchero said.

In order to begin construction near Western Springs, the BNSF Railway bridge that spans I-294 must be replaced, he said. A "shoofly," described as a temporary railroad bridge, for the BNSF will be built so that there can be four lanes of traffic through construction and the railroad tracks can be maintained at operating speeds, Zucchero said.

About 75 Metra parking spots in Western Springs, also used for Spring Rock Park, which borders I-294, may be impacted by the expansion project, and parking may be unavailable there from August 2019 to May 2022, he said.

“Our goal truly is to get out of your way as quickly as we can,” Zucchero said.

However, following Zucchero's talk, residents expressed several concerns about noise, dust and the project's impact on Spring Rock Park and houses.

“If you haven’t heard from us, you’re not going to hear from us about any property impacts,” Zucchero said.

Kathryn Mazzone, a Western Springs resident, asked about the impact on the park's tennis courts with the expansion construction.

Zucchero said a wall may be put around the tennis courts or relocation could possibly occur.

After the meeting, Mazzone, who has a 12-year-old son who plays tennis at Spring Rock Park, said she came to the meeting in part because she is concerned about what will happen to the tennis courts.

“Our tennis program is like the gem of Western Springs,” Mazzone said, adding she is concerned the new construction will negatively impact the tennis program.

Mazzone said she does not want dust from construction flying around when her son is playing tennis, and she is concerned about where the tennis courts will be moved if they are relocated.

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