Work continues to widen Interstate 57 to six lanes in Southern Illinois

WORK CONTINUES to widen to widen Interstate 57 to six lanes in Southern Illinois. I-57 is part of the National Highway Freight Network, carrying more than 40,000 vehicles a day, 14,000 of which are trucks. – Tiffany Blanchette/Daily Journal photo

Benton, IL – Illinois is proceeding with improvements to Interstate 57 that will widen the vital north-south highway to six lanes through much of southern Illinois.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the project in the heart of Illinois’ coal country – Benton – as part of the Rebuild Illinois capital investment plan, saying it will improve safety and mobility while creating thousands of union construction and permanent jobs.

“I’m proud to announce the most significant investment in I-57 since its original development,” he said. “Thanks to Rebuild Illinois, we’re unlocking the federal funding necessary to take this from a four to a six-lane highway – enhancing safety, creating jobs, improving the reliability of the freight network, and supporting the economic development potential of the region.”

In southern Illinois, I-57 is considered part of the National Highway Freight Network, carrying more than 40,000 vehicles a day, including 14,000 trucks. The improvements will add a third lane in each direction along a critical freight and travel corridor that no longer meets current traffic volumes and demands.

One section starting next month will expand nine miles to six lanes from a point north of Illinois 149 to south of Illinois 154, including a median barrier, resurfacing of the existing lanes, improving guard rails, adding rumble strips and replacing the bridges over the Big Muddy River. Workers will keep the current four lanes open much of the time, but with nighttime lane closures.

Participants will include graduates of the Highway Construction Careers Training Program, an IDOT initiative with John A. Logan College in Carterville to provide minority and female students with on-the-job experience toward careers in the construction trades.

The department last year completed a 4.5-mile section south of West Frankfort and has another 3.5-mile section to do there.

“The I-57 corridor is one of the most important in our system, but it’s prone to backups and congestion that can spill over into neighboring communities,” Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said. “Under Gov. Pritzker, we are transforming I-57 to accommodate 21st century transportation, as we are doing throughout southern Illinois and the entire state.”

The widening is coming next to Mt. Vernon along with three bridge replacements and rebuilding the I-57 and I-64 interchange with Illinois 15.

Southern Illinois state legislators Sen. Dale Fowler and Rep. Dave Severin as Republicans are political opponents of Pritzker, but both recognized the importance of the project.

“There is no doubt, portions of Interstate 57 remain congested, creating serious challenges and posing dangerous risks,” Fowler said. “By investing in Illinois’ infrastructure, we are investing in jobs and our local economy, which will continue to put southern Illinois on the map for years to come.”

Severin called Interstate 57 the lifeline in the body of southern Illinois’ economy. “Investing in our future by widening I-57 means union workers will have jobs and our truck drivers and motorists will have the space they need to operate safely,” he said.

Rebuild Illinois, passed in 2019, is investing $33.2 billion into the state’s transportation system, creating jobs and promoting economic growth. It has improved all modes of Illinois transportation – roads and bridges, transit, waterways, freight and passenger rail, aviation, and bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.

Through its second year, Rebuild Illinois had made $5.2 billion in improvements to more than 3,000 miles of highway and almost 300 bridges, plus 450 additional safety improvements.

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