Federal highway funds boost two local projects

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Plans for the 143rd Street extension project in Plainfield got a big boost last week with $20 million in federal funding, but the village still has work to do before it can begin construction.

The Plainfield project is one of two in Will County getting federal funding to improve freight mobility on the state’s highways with the other being reconstruction of the Interstate 80 interchange at Route 30 in New Lenox.

Plainfield, however, will have to come up with at least $15 million more before construction can begin on the 143rd Street project, said Public Works Director Allen Persons.

The entire cost of the project, including engineering and land acquisition, will be somewhere between $35 million and $40 million, Persons said.

The state listed the total cost of the project at just under $29 million, but Persons said that amount only covers construction costs and not engineering and land acquisition.

The 143rd Street project will extend the street beyond the point where it ends now at a T-intersection with Route 59, carry it over the DuPage River, and connect it with Route 126.

The aim is to relieve congestion and create a more direct route for motorists headed to Interstate 55, which has a Route 126 interchange. Since 143rd Street doubles as Route 30 where it meets Route 59, the extension would also give motorists and truck drivers passing through Plainfield a route to the interstate that takes them around the center of town.

“That’s the real intent of the project – to improve traffic safety and relive traffic congestion,” Persons said.

The I-80 interchange project in New Lenox is “shovel-ready,” said Nick Palmer, chief of staff for Will County Executive Larry Walsh Sr.

“It’s going to move quick,” Palmer said.

The state of Illinois is putting about $9 million in matching funds to cover the estimated $43 million in total costs listed for the project. The federal grant is $34.4 million.

The project includes widening I-80 to three lanes west of the interchange to avoid the bottlenecks that occur now because the interstate narrows to two lanes close the interchange.

Palmer cautioned that people should not expect a completely redesigned interchange, but said it will provide more room for traffic.