The last day of our eight day trek through the Upper Midwest took us from the Quad Cities area back to Chicago before heading southward to home. Leaving around lunchtime, we traveled I-74 through Bettendorf and Moline, catching a glimpse of the current utility work being performed in preparation of the I-74 rebuild across the Mississippi River. We then hooked up with I-80 east toward Lasalle and Joliet.
Following the advice of Jeff, we poked down Interstate 180 to the first exit (U.S. 6) to see if his other “state-named” shield was in place, but unfortunately it had already been replaced.
The American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO), predecessor to AASHTO, established a road test site along this portion of Interstate 80 near Ottawa between 1958 and 1960 (62). Construction began on the seven-mile segment in August 1956 with the first road tests commencing October 1958. The test area included six loops and a tangent segment consisting of concrete and asphalt sections. 16 short-spanned bridges were also included within the road test area. Through a wide variety of subbase, base, and surface thickness, the AASHO Road Test provided the necessary foundation for the evaluation of stresses and deflections from moving vehicles.1 Ending November 1960, the Road Test area in Ottawa is a testament to some of the highway and bridge designs and specifications still in use today.
Of the seven-mile test area, only this “Non-destructive weather loop” remains, consisting of two concrete carriageways looped on either end. The test site existed between the mid-to-late 1950s through the early 1960s according to this particular sign.
Continuing our drive east on Interstate 80 through La Salle and Grundy counties, we made it to Cook County and the outskirts of the greater Chicago metropolitan area, passing Joliet to the south.
Built in 1965, the pair of bridges has an average daily traffic (ADT) count of 148,200 vehicles (2012). The bridges were rehabilitated in 1998.2
Hooking up with Interstate 57 in the vicinity of Country Club Hills, we headed north toward Blue Island and the merge with Interstate 94 (Dan Ryan Expressway).
Phase one of the connection between I-57 & I-294 (Tri-State Tollway) was completed in October 2014 with the opening of a ramp from I-57 north to I-294 north and from I-294 south to I-57 south. At a cost of over $600 million and spanning a decade, the linking of these two vital Interstates will reduce congestion and improve travel times. The second phase, expected to commence in 2023, will complete the freeway to freeway interchange.
With some time left before needing to head toward O’Hare, we traveled south on Interstate 55 (Stevenson Expressway) with a brief return to Interstate 80 and Joliet.
After grabbing a quick bite to eat before the flight, we reversed course and headed back north on I-55 toward the Chicago area. Our final hour took us up to Interstate 294, with a revisit of the Tri-State Tollway northbound back to O’Hare.
Started in Spring 2013, the two-phase project includes road widening the portion of Mannheim Road between IL 19 (Irving Park Road) and IL 72 (Higgins Road) and the construction of an underpass from southbound U.S. 12 & 45 to eastbound Balmoral Avenue. Originally scheduled to be completed August 2014, the project is now slated to wrap up this fall.
With thunderstorms coming in from the west and the afternoon winding down, it was time to finally return the car, board our shuttle to the airport, and prepare to depart for Florida. We ended up traveling a total of 4676.8 miles through our eight-day trip into the Upper Midwest.
- Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/50aasho.cfm.
- bridgehunter.com, bridgehunter.com/il/will/99005721743