Massive I-80 Project Prepares to Take Off for Largest U.S. Inland Port

Advance construction on a $1.2 billion interstate project to improve access to North America’s largest inland port is underway.

The rebuild of 16 miles of Interstate 80 in Will County is expected to take six years. The 50-year-old section is part of one of only three coast-to-coast interstates in the U.S. and sees 80,000 vehicles a day, with trucks making up one-fourth of that traffic, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

“With demand for freight projected to double in northeastern Illinois the next 20 years, Will County’s role as a transportation hub and the country’s largest inland port is critical,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman.

Advance work on I-80 began in June with a $47 million project to replace several bridges in Joliet, Rockdale and New Lenox and widen a section of the interstate. This project will reconstruct the U.S. 30 interchange, adding a third I-80 lane in each direction west from Interstate 355. Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, a third lane on Interstate 80 was opened in both directions in New Lenox as part of this project.

To speed up the I-80 rebuild, IDOT plans for construction, land acquisition and final engineering on sections to occur simultaneously. A section from Ridge Road to the DuPage River will be under construction starting next year, while land acquisition progresses and final engineering is completed on replacing the Des Plaines River bridges, IDOT says. In 2023, work will shift to the section between Ridge Road and U.S. 30. Construction of the Des Plaines River bridges and Center Street and U.S. 52/Illinois 53 (Chicago Street) interchanges will take place in 2026 and 2027. 

I-80 rebuild project phases mapThe planned construction phases for the $1.2 billion, six-year I-80 rebuild project in Illinois.Illinois DOT

When it wraps up in 2027, the overall I-80 project will have:

  • Redesigned and rebuilt 16 miles.
  • Added or extended auxiliary lanes to improve safety and reduce congestion.
  • Rebuilt or improved Interchanges at Interstate 55, Illinois 7, Center Street, Chicago Street, Richards Street and Briggs Street.
  • Built a new flyover ramp linking southbound I-55 to westbound I-80 to improve traffic flow and safety.
  • Rehabilitated or replaced more than 30 bridges.
  • Built 8 miles of sound walls to protect nearby neighborhoods from traffic noise.
  • Built bike and pedestrian paths.

“These overdue improvements will not only make it safer for commercial drivers, but for the thousands of families who rely on I-80 to commute to work, drive their kids to school and move safely through their daily lives,” said Governor JB Pritzker. 

The I-80 project is being funded by Rebuild Illinois, the largest capital program in the state’s history. The $33.2 billion program was enacted in 2019, and the state’s gas tax was doubled to pay for it. The program focuses not only on roads and bridges but transit, waterways, freight and passenger rail, aviation, and biking and walking traffic, according to IDOT.