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October 23, 2000

Ryan Officially Opens Rebuilt Stevenson Expressway (I-55)

CHICAGO -- Governor George H. Ryan today officially reopened the newly rebuilt Stevenson Expressway (I-55) ahead of its scheduled October 31 completion date. The 15-mile-long, $567 million project is a part of the overall Illinois FIRST program, a five-year, $12 billion program designed to build, repair and upgrade Illinois' critical infrastructure.

The two-year Stevenson project, from Canal Street to the Tri-State Tollway(I-294), was completed in record time - in less than 16 months of construction.

"During my campaign for governor, I made it clear that easing traffic congestion and improving our transportation infrastructure would be one of my top priorities," Ryan said. "Through Illinois FIRST and a lot of help from the members of the General Assembly and the support of Mayor Daley and other elected officials, I have been able to deliver on that campaign promise."

The portion of the Stevenson Expressway between Canal Street and Kedzie Avenue has been virtually rebuilt. A portion of the elevated highway, which ran from a quarter-mile east and west of Damen Avenue, has been removed, and the roadway has been rebuilt on solid earth and stone. According to IDOT, this new roadway will be far easier and less expensive to maintain than an elevated structure. The section from Kedzie Avenue to the Des Plaines River has been resurfaced, while the remaining western section has been rebuilt.

The new Stevenson Expressway has new pavement, much of it grooved to prevent hydroplaning, wider and safer shoulders, new and more consistent lighting along the roadway, and new continuous concrete barrier walls. The actual pavement structure between Canal Street and Kedzie Avenue is twice as thick-at 28 inches-than the old pavement. Much of the material in the new pavement structure was recycled from the old roadway.

The nine-mile section of the Stevenson Expressway from Canal Street to Harlem Avenue reopened on October 2, almost a month early. The five-mile section between Harlem Avenue and the DesPlaines River opened on October 7, and the remaining one-mile section to the Tri-State Tollway (I-294) reopened early this weekend.

"This is a result of collaborative efforts," Ryan added. "The workers finished the project in record time, the motorists observed advisories and used alternate routes and city, state and federal governments came together to provide funding.

"This is a prime example of what Illinois FIRST is all about."

When the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) first opened the road in 1964, it was called the Southwest Expressway. It was officially dedicated as the Stevenson Expressway a year later. In those early days, the average daily traffic level was about 22,000 vehicles. Today, the traffic level it is about 160,000 vehicles.

For information about Mission I-55, visit the Mission I-55 website at www.missioni55.com


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