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Will Elgin-O'Hare Expressway reach the airport?
By Marni Pyke | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/5/2010 3:35 PM

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After years of talk, completing the eastern part of the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway and building a western bypass around the airport are gaining momentum and indications are that all or part of the project could be a tollway.

Gov. Pat Quinn announced this morning the creation of an advisory council of business, local government, urban planners and labor to coordinate and work on funding for the project.

Quinn's action comes months after warring factions in towns around O'Hare International Airport finally resolved the sticking point of where to locate the bypass, which will wrap around the west part of the airport connecting with I-90 to the north near Des Plaines and the Tri-State to the south in Franklin Park.

The bypass also will link with the eastern segment of the Elgin-O'Hare, which terminates in Itasca now, and would be located along Thorndale Avenue.

The entire plan is expected to cost about $3.6 billion. With the state in budget crisis mode, the only options for funding appear to be building all or part of the project as a tollway, obtaining federal dollars or public-private partnerships.

The tollway already is in the midst of reviewing a menu of projects to adopt from the Prairie Parkway, stretching from I-80 to I-88 in Kane and Kendall counties, to the Elgin-O'Hare.

While the agency hasn't committed to any particular one, it is significant that Quinn appointed Illinois State Toll Highway Authority Executive Director Kristi Lafleur, a former top aide, as co-chair of the advisory council along with IDOT Secretary Gary Hannig.

Lafleur said the tollway was committed to supporting projects that create jobs and keep businesses in the Midwest.

The two new highways are expected to spur economic development, in the form of industry, hotels and retail on the western half of the airport. The construction is projected to create 80,000 long-term and short-term jobs.

So far, the same momentum to complete the eastern leg of the highway hasn't caught on with the western half, which ends in Hanover Park.