Construction on Interstate 80 in Joliet is ramping up, and the Illinois Department of Transportation wants the public to be aware of lane closures, ramp closings and the likelihood of traffic congestion in upcoming weekends.
I-80 will be down to one lane, initially for eastbound traffic and later for westbound motorists, during the weekend work, which starts Sept. 8 and continues for seven more weekends, including Fridays.
The work will take place between Raynor Avenue and Gardner Street.
IDOT officials said they want to get the word out to truckers and other motorists to find alternative routes if possible to lighten what is likely to become a congested construction zone.
“There are literally not a lot of good alternatives to I-80,” John Baczek, engineer of program development for IDOT, said last week in a meeting with media.
But the options are fewer for truckers, Baczek said. IDOT will encourage truck drivers to seek alternative interstate routes through the Chicago region as the work progresses. Motorists are advised to find alternative routes through Joliet to avoid construction.
“We are looking for people to think big when they’re passing through the area,” Baczek said. “Try to avoid the area if possible.”
Traffic on I-80 typically is about 80,000 vehicles a day, and 25% of that is trucks, according to IDOT.
The work being done this fall is prelude to an expansive I-80 upgrade that will continue until 2028, as IDOT replaces the Des Plaines River bridges, rebuilds interchanges and adds auxiliary lanes to ease traffic at entrance and exit ramps.
That project is expected to begin next year and will be done in segments along a 16-mile stretch from U.S. 30 in New Lenox to Ridge Road in Minooka.
The work this fall is focused on pavement upgrades in the Joliet area.
On Tuesday, IDOT created a new configuration on I-80 eastbound, splitting traffic between Richards Street and Hickory Creek to open the road between the two lanes for reconstruction.
The split-traffic configuration was the latest alteration to the Joliet stretch of I-80, which became a construction zone last year as IDOT began to replace bridges in eastbound lanes.
Construction over the past year has already involved occasional weekend work and lane closures, leading to backups at times.
IDOT wants motorists to know that the upcoming weekend work and lane closures not only will proceed for eight consecutive weekends, weather permitting, but also will include Fridays.
Past weekend work started on Friday nights after rush hour.
The weekend schedule starting Sept. 8 will run from 10 p.m. Thursdays to 5 a.m. Mondays.
“It’s going to have an impact on rush-hour traffic,” IDOT spokeswoman Maria Castaneda said. “That’s very important. Historically, Friday traffic can be nice and light or really heavy.”
IDOT is encouraging motorists to prepare for the worst and plan for alternative routes for work and weekend travel.
Motorists should expect “significant travel delays,” said Isaam Rayyan, engineer of project implementation.
The eastbound ramp to Richards Street was closed this week and is not expected to open this fall. The ramp from Chicago Street to eastbound I-80 will be closed on Sept. 8, but reopen on the following Monday.
“Not all ramps will be closed at the same time, and I-80 will only be reduced to one lane in one direction at a time,” Rayyan said, indicating IDOT’s efforts to minimize the impact on traffic.
The lane closures Sept. 8 will involve eastbound traffic only.
Detours will be posted for ramp closures.
The work includes patching, milling, resurfacing and pavement striping to keep the pavement in acceptable condition until the larger corridor project can begin, according to an IDOT press release.
According to IDOT, the work will minimize future emergency closings “that have occurred with increasing frequency in recent years.” The planned repairs also will give motorists an opportunity to plan for alternative routes, according to IDOT.