74/57 interchange renovation will require special funding

74/57 interchange renovation will require special funding

URBANA — It's probably going to take a new state capital program, a new federal highway program or some other special circumstance to pay for an estimated $70 million Interstate 74/57 interchange improvement project in west Champaign, a state transportation official said Wednesday.

That was not the message that Champaign County Board Chairman Alan Kurtz wanted to hear.

"My letter shows urgency. We have an unsafe interchange. It's been proven," Kurtz said of the letter he presented to Joseph Crowe, the engineer in Illinois Department of Transportation District 5. "We are in the top 5 percent in the state for accidents, we've had 335 accidents (in the last five years) and we've had a couple of fatalities.

"And they're talking 10 years down the road (until the 50-year-old interchange can be rebuilt). That's not acceptable to me. With the increase in population we have, the increased enrollment at the University of Illinois, that means increased vehicular traffic. Right now, there's 40,000 vehicles a day going through that interchange. In five years, it could be 60,000."

The letter from Kurtz had the backing, he said, of the local intergovernmental council that includes the cities of Champaign and Urbana, the village of Savoy, the UI, Parkland College, the local school and park districts, the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, the Urbana & Champaign Sanitary District and the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission

"We understand that a project of this magnitude cannot be accomplished with the typical program funding levels received by District 5," Kurtz wrote in his letter. "We encourage the district to pursue other special revenue funding streams available for projects of this magnitude in the state."

The letter also went to Gov. Pat Quinn and Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider. It was the second time Kurtz had asked for more IDOT funding in the East Central Illinois area.

"We never heard back from the original letter, but I've sent another one to him today with the support of the entire intergovernmental council," Kurtz said of his letter to Quinn.

IDOT has included money in its budget for phase one engineering for the project, but not for design or construction.

"It's a big project, a capital bill-type project," Crowe said Wednesday at an IDOT open house at the Champaign County Highway Department building. "This is a project that's probably going to cost $65 (million) to $70 million. It's too big for just the regular program."

In a typical year District 5 gets about $40 million for all highway and bridge repairs, safety projects and engineering work, he said.

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sweet caroline wrote on October 03, 2013 at 9:10 am

It might be nice to know exactly what the problem is that's causing all the accidents.  Seems like a key piece of information is missing from this story.

pattsi wrote on October 03, 2013 at 10:10 am

I asked that very question while attending this open house. There was no specific answer other than the focus is on the interchange. When I mentioned that accidents happen between Danville and Champaign/Urbana on the straight away, there was no concrete response to that aspect. Further there was no data as to exactly where the accidents are occurring and the circumstances surrounding the a ccidents. It was pointed out that more barriers have been put in place along the narrow median. The take away from this information is a recognition that the medians are too narrow allowing cars to cross lanes. This has nothing to do with the interchanges. Though the pitch of the on and off ramps might be a variable contributing to the trucks tipping over.

move along wrote on October 03, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Perhaps they should check out what's been happening with total vehicle miles traveled in the US.  

Simply extrapolating exponntially into the future isn't always the best way to predict future use.

Maybe we should be seriously looking at whether $70M to rebuild an interchange when the current level of auto usage may be starting a post peak oil decline is a good investment.  

Check out the data on FRED here.  

This is not looking like the usual recessionary dip followed by an immediate return to rising miles travelled.  


Avalon wrote on October 03, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Just a few years ago IDOT was in the planning stages for this project. People found out and started screaming about how much it was going to cost, that they didn't think it was needed and did not want to fool with the hassles of onstruction.        Some local politicians like Chapin Rose and others complained to IDOT and lo and behold IDOT pulled out. http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2010-09-22/expansion-three-lanes-one-possibility-i-74-between-urbana-and-danville.html  .    http://www.smilepolitely.com/culture/public_input_sought_on_transportation_proposal/               http://www.news-gazette.com/opinion/editorials/2010-01-11/take-another-look-i-74-widening-project.html . Now all of a sudden some local politician think this is a crisis that must be fixed right now.

Joe American wrote on October 03, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Almost all of the accidents on this interchange are due to EXCESSIVE SPEED. It doesn't take $70 million to get people to slow down.  Simplest solution?  Rumble strips, earlier awareness through increased signage & lighting and heavy duty guardrails.  It would save the people fo the State of Illinois tens of millions.

acylum wrote on October 03, 2013 at 4:10 pm

It seems to me the major problem with the is the cloverleaf pattern.  You have people leaving 74 onto the cloverleaf and onto 57 and a few hundred feet later people exiting 57 into the second cloverleaf.  The people coming onto 57 have a short distance to merge left, and the people exiting 57 have a short distance to merge right.  Add tightly packed lanes and exceeded speed limits, there is going to be accidents.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on October 07, 2013 at 11:10 pm
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sweet caroline wrote on October 03, 2013 at 9:10 pm

I like Joe American's idea of putting rumble strips on the exit ramps.  It's a lot cheaper and easier than spending millions on reconstruction.

bettycat wrote on October 07, 2013 at 10:10 am

When approaching from the north, you're at the mercy of those merging at the same time you're preparing to exit.  Sometimes it goes smoothly, other times it's terrifying.  When it was foggy or rainy, I sometimes exited at Olympian and came in to town on Mattis.  If heading west out of town on 74 I always held to the left lane until I got past the interchange.  My routes have now changed, and I don't miss it one bit. 

dd1961 wrote on October 10, 2013 at 4:10 am

I also use the left lane when at all possible.  All the merging and people leaving the ramp in heavy traffic is a bit dangerous.  It is not a speed issue as much as visibility and congestion issue.  Of course the at least once a month occurence of semi's tipping on the ramps is  speed issue.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on October 07, 2013 at 11:10 pm
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Tear the whole thing down and build it again with much longer entrance and exit lanes.  It doesn't matter how much it costs.  Having a safe interchange should be more important than saving a few tax dollars.