Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, left, chats with Naperville Mayor George Pradel after breaking ground Wednesday on the Eola Road interchange at Interstate 88 that is expected to be done by the end of the year.
Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer
Tollway officials believe the Eola Road interchange at I-88 in Aurora will be complete by the end of the year.
The tollway's acting executive director, Michael King, announced the ambitious timetable for the $50 million project at a Wednesday groundbreaking ceremony.
Long seen as a solution to help ease congestion on heavily traveled Route 59 directly to the east, the interchange plan has been in the works for years. Progress has been delayed, however, by price wars with landowners and breakdowns among government agencies.
"I didn't think we'd ever be here," DuPage County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom said. "We had an intergovernmental agreement in place in 1999, but for whatever reasons we could never get to this point."
The final deal will cost the tollway $25 million, DuPage County $19 million and Aurora $6 million. Aurora is receiving a $1 million federal grant to help offset some of its costs.
"Today begins the realization of a dream we've had for over a decade," Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner said. "In addition to traffic relief, the new Eola interchange will bring us up to 10,000 new jobs."
In fact, Weisner said, household cleaning supply manufacturer FHP is moving its North American headquarters to a new building along the Reagan Memorial Tollway because of the new interchange. More than 220 jobs are being created as a result.
Tollway engineers said the configuration of the interchange will help spur development in the area. That's because Eola Road isn't directly connected to it, they said. It's a similar design to the new interchange near Naperville Road that drives motorists past the Freedom Commons commercial district.
Eastbound motorists entering or exiting I-88 will use ramps to get to Diehl Road, while westbound motorists entering or exiting I-88 will access Eola Road via Bilter Road to the north of the interstate.
The new interchange will only be accessible to I-Pass users, tollway officials said. Cash customers will have to use interchanges at Farnsworth Avenue two miles to the west or Route 59, two miles to the east.
Officials said the majority of motorists expected to use the interchange are commuters who are equipped with I-Pass. Tollway officials said 81 percent of the cars on the tollways are equipped with I-Pass, but that figure is higher for I-88 drivers.
During construction, the Illinois Prairie Path will be rerouted to the north at Eola Road. It will reopen with a modified route once the interchange is complete. Construction begins this week, officials said.