The decade-long wait is over for motorists wanting an Eola Road interchange at I-88 in Aurora.
Aurora, Naperville, DuPage County and Illinois State Toll Highway Authority officials Friday morning celebrated the completion of the once-stalled project. The interchange, accessible only to I-PASS users, was scheduled to open overnight.
"It is a great day for Aurora," said Mayor Tom Weisner, adding that the interchange will spark development in the area. "It will provide jobs and a stronger tax base for our city."
"It's a wonderful day, a beautiful day," added an ebullient Naperville Mayor George Pradel said. "We just appreciate making it happen. That's what it's about - getting the job done and getting it done so quickly so that we can use it and bring people here to this area and help people get from this area to wherever they have to go easily."
Aurora, the tollway and county worked together to build the interchange, which long has been touted as a way to ease traffic congestion. But land acquisition problems delayed construction for about 10 years.
"I figured I'd see the day," DuPage County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom said. "I didn't figure it would take this long. But with big projects like this, you just have to keep plugging away, kicking down the barriers and moving forward."
While $50 million was budgeted for the project, tollway officials announced the final price tag is expected to be $36 million. The deal among Aurora, the tollway and DuPage calls for the tollway to pay up to half the project's cost. The county and city have agreed to pay for the rest of the construction and land acquisition.
Despite its location, the intersection doesn't connect directly to Eola Road. Eastbound motorists entering or exiting I-88 will use ramps along Diehl Road. Westbound traffic will enter and exit I-88 via Bilter Road.
Because the interchange features all-electronic tolling, customers paying with cash will have to use the interchanges at Farnsworth Avenue two miles to the west or Route 59 two miles to the east.
Still, officials say the new interchange will ease congestion at both Route 59 and Farnsworth.
"The movement of traffic in this area will be so much speedier because of this," DuPage County Board member James Healy of Naperville said. "It will take some of the pressure off Route 59."
In the meantime, Weisner said Aurora officials remain committed to helping Naperville push for the widening of Route 59.
"I think this is a means of some relief of the current situation," Weisner said. "But the current situation is so overwhelmingly bad that it's still important to widen Route 59."