I saw the news that the Elgin-O’Hare highway extension just received the final approval from the federal government. But, one piece of information in the story stunned me:
The action, which was expected, allows the Illinois Tollway to proceed with the $3.6 billion project, which will take an estimated 12 years to complete.
Twelve years? Chicagoans are used to a lot of construction but this seems like a really long time. Here is a brief schedule according to the Elgin O’Hare West Bypass FAQ page:
Construction of the Elgin O’Hare West Bypass project could be initiated by the Illinois Tollway as soon as 2013, and would extend through 2025. While the staging plan will be refined as the Tollway advances project design, the general sequencing described in the Tollway’s Move Illinois Program includes: widening of the existing Elgin-O’Hare expressway and upgrading the I-90/Elmhurst interchange to full access, followed by the extension of the Elgin O’Hare Expressway. When the Elgin O’Hare construction is complete construction would begin on the south leg of the west bypass, with the final piece being the north leg of the west bypass. The phasing of the improvements is intended to provide the most benefit to the public as early as possible while complementing other Tollway improvements on adjacent facilities such as I-90 and I-294.
In fact, this might be the best argument I have heard for constructing highways earlier rather than latter. In addition to costs which continue to grow over time, it can often be quicker to build when there is less development.