Illinois Tollway Approves Railroad Agreements For New I-490 Tollway And Western Access To O'Hare

O'Hare Airport Tower
Photo credit (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Illinois Tollway Board of Directors approved Thursday agreements with Soo Line Railroad Company, doing business as Canadian Pacific and Union Pacific Railroad, representing the next major step forward for the I-490 Tollway Project.

“Improving and updating infrastructure across the state has been a top priority for my administration from the very beginning and this new agreement provides a clear path forward for a long-awaited project,” said Governor JB Pritzker, in a statement. “After years of false starts and unfulfilled plans, the I-490 Tollway Project can now achieve its goals of improving access to O’Hare International Airport for businesses and communities and providing needed employment opportunities for workers.”

The forms of agreement will allow for the mutual exchange of property rights necessary for construction of the new I-490 Tollway extending south from the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) to the Tri-State Tollway (I-294) with interchanges creating new access into and around O’Hare International Airport and will enable improvements to rail operations in the Chicago Terminal area.

“Today we mark a significant breakthrough in the Illinois Tollway’s longstanding effort to deliver the Elgin O’Hare Western Access Project,” said Tollway Board of Directors Chairman Will Evans, in a statement. “Thanks to the leadership of this administration, as well as the dogged persistence of our federal, state and local stakeholders, our collective goal of delivering western access to O’Hare is that much closer.”

Construction of the new I-490 Tollway is planned to cross the Union Pacific Railroad at several locations, including where western access into and out of O’Hare International Airport is planned, as well as near the Tri-State Tollway (I-294) at the location of the future I-490/I-294 Interchange. The new I-490 Tollway is also planned to cross over the Canadian Pacific at several locations including where western access to the airport is planned and in the Canadian Pacific’s Bensenville Yard. The project will require relocating Canadian Pacific trackage south of the yard, the Illinois Tollway said in a statement. The agreements would also provide the Tollway with property rights that will advance adjacent projects supporting construction of Cook County’s planned improvements to Touhy Avenue, which include replacement of the at-grade crossing at the Union Pacific Railroad with a new bridge that will relieve congestion and improve access to the north side of O’Hare International Airport. “The mutual benefits that will flow from these agreements are the result of cooperation and respect for one another’s needs,” said Mark Redd, Canadian Pacific’s Executive Vice President of Operations, in a statement. “We are excited that the forms of agreement will help the Tollway meet the needs of the travelling public of Northeast Illinois, and enable improvements to the rail network which will contribute to Chicago’s economy and help position Canadian Pacific to meet future demand for freight rail service.”  The new I-490 Tollway, scheduled to be complete by the end of 2025, coupled with the Illinois Route 390 Tollway which was completed in 2017, will connect businesses and communities with one of the nation’s busiest airports, transit facilities, major freight transportation hubs, distribution centers and multiple interstate highways including the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) and the Central Tri-State Tollway (I-294), the Illinois Tollway said in a statement.

Designed to accommodate access into the O’Hare International Airport, the two new all-electronic Tollways include 17 miles of new roads with 15 new or improved interchanges. The new I-490 Tollway will be built to carry north-south traffic around the western border of O'Hare and provide access to the airport. 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 the new I-490 Tollway.