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IDOT passes on Bensenville for western bypass around O'Hare
By Marni Pyke | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/9/2009 10:10 AM | Updated: 12/9/2009 9:36 PM

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They've got the plan. Now all they need is the money.

Illinois Department of Transportation engineers Wednesday finalized the location of a proposed western bypass around O'Hare linking I-90 and I-294 to a completed Elgin O'Hare Expressway.

IDOT will build the south leg of the bypass connecting to I-294 east of the Union Pacific Railway tracks in Franklin Park. Designs call for an elevated highway. The decision relieved Bensenville leaders and residents who opposed the state's alternative of locating the highway in their town west of County Line Road.

"This is a fantastic outcome for Bensenville," Village President Frank Soto said. "There's been a lot of uncertainty."

The north leg of the bypass will be constructed mainly on the west side of O'Hare and then head north to connect with I-90 at the Des Plaines oasis.

Input from communities - particularly Franklin Park, whose leaders backed locating the highway in their town - was crucial, IDOT Bureau Chief of Programming Pete Harmet said.

Between the two south options, "travel performance and impact were similar," Harmet said. "What was key was Franklin Park saying 'OK.'"

IDOT dropped an option to build the north leg of the bypass along a widened York/Elmhurst Road, partly through Bensenville.

Central to the project is finally extending the Elgin O'Hare Expressway east along Thorndale Avenue from its terminus in Itasca to the airport, where a western terminal is proposed.

The estimated cost is about $3.6 billion. How it will be paid for has to be worked out, Harmet said. Possibilities include the Illinois tollway building the highway or obtaining funding from the pending federal transportation bill.

"I think it will be a combination of both," Elk Grove Mayor Craig Johnson said. "It makes a lot of sense to have the tollway involved, but because of the size, scope and price we may need some federal funds."

Johnson led a fight against one bypass proposal widening Route 83 through the town's business park; IDOT ultimately rejected it. Now, "this is a big day for Elk Grove Village," he said. "Now we know where it's definitely going - everyone is on the same page."

Other officials at an IDOT meeting said the project will aid commercial development in their towns and reduce congestion.

"We need as much economic development as possible," said Elmhurst Mayor Pete DiCianni, adding the city will seek to get interchanges at Grand Avenue.

"It's a good project for a variety of reasons," DuPage County Director of Transportation and Operations John Kos said. He praised a transit component of the plan creating a bus rapid transit or rail system along the Elgin O'Hare Expressway from the airport to Hanover Park. The system would include stops at the proposed western terminal, Lively Boulevard, Arlington Heights Road, Rohlwing Road, Roselle Road, the Schaumburg Metra station and Gary Avenue.

Hanover Park Mayor Rod Craig supported the proposal in general but noted he wanted transit to extend to County Line Road instead of ending at Gary, which would create unwanted traffic in nearby neighborhoods.

Chicago's Department of Aviation also threw its support behind IDOT's plan, saying it would benefit O'Hare and surrounding communities.

Next steps include preparation of a more detailed plan, expected to be completed in 2012.

The proposal also calls for 24 miles of regional and local trails.