Illinois Tollway reaches railroad deal, paving the way for construction of a beltway around O’Hare
When it is finished, Illinois Route 390 east toward the airport will connect with a new north-south tollway to be called Interstate 490.
The Illinois Tollway board on Thursday approved agreements with two major railroads, which will make possible long-anticipated western highway access into O’Hare International Airport.The agreement with the Soo Line Railroad Co., doing business as Canadian Pacific, and Union Pacific Railroad provides the Tollway with the property rights it needs to build a planned beltway around O’Hare.When it is finished, Illinois Route 390 east toward the airport will connect with a new north-south tollway to be called Interstate 490, which would stretch along the airport’s western border. The new tollway would connect with Interstate 90 to the north and the Tri-State Tollway to the south.The toll authority has argued that western highway access is crucial to an expanded O’Hare. The Tollway has been trying to get the right to do the construction for years, and sued Canadian Pacific over access in 2016.Work on the I-490 Tollway must cross the Union Pacific Railroad and the Canadian Pacific at several places, including in the Canadian Pacific’s Bensenville Yard. The project will require relocating Canadian Pacific tracks.The agreements also provide the Tollway with property rights that will help in the construction of Cook County’s planned improvements to Touhy Avenue, which include replacing the at-grade crossing at the Union Pacific Railroad with a new bridge that will ease congestion and improve access to the north side of the airport.The agreements call for the Tollway to spend roughly $250 million on land, construction access rights, air rights, business impacts and future structural maintenance costs associated with the I-490 project, spokesman Dan Rozek said.While the Tollway can now begin portions of I-490 construction as early as this fall, there are a handful of final steps, including the completion of an environmental study for review by the Federal Aviation Administration and agreements with the Chicago Department of Aviation.Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, and Reps. Mike Quigley and Raja Krishnamoorthi, all Illinois Democrats, issued statements praising the agreement.“The Elgin O’Hare Western Access Project is vital to the future of northeastern Illinois’s transportation network, and today’s vote is a critical milestone toward construction of this project,” Duckworth said.The new I-490 Tollway is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2025 and will carry north-south traffic around the western border of O’Hare and provide access to the airport, according to the Tollway. The Illinois Route 390 Tollway, which currently carries east-west traffic between Lake Street (Illinois Route 20) and Illinois Route 83, will include an interchange connection to I-490.The planned O’Hare expansion, the biggest and most expensive in the airport’s 75-year history, is supposed to be finished by the end of 2028. The plans include the addition of a new Global Terminal and three new concourses, and is mostly funded by passenger fees, landing fees and other income.Chicago’s Aviation Department has said the coronavirus pandemic won’t interfere with the expansion plan, despite major financial losses for airlines as air travel has plummeted.