State and local leaders in Will County celebrated the re-opening of the “supercool” Houbolt Road interchange and other milestones achieved in the ongoing overhaul of Interstate 80, considered the second longest freeway in the nation.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker held a news conference on Wednesday at Joliet Junior College, 1215 Houbolt Road, to remark on the latest developments that have taken place with the ongoing $1.3 billion revitalization of I-80. The project is part of the Pritzker administration’s Rebuild Illinois capital program.
Pritzker said for the first time, the state is modernizing all “modes of transportation,” such as roads, bridges and waterways.
“For the first time, we’re merging history and legacy with an eye toward the future,” Pritzker said.
One of the milestones reached with the I-80 redevelopment has been the recent re-opening of the Houbolt Road interchange. That area has been converted to a diverging diamond design and will increase access to CenterPoint Intermodal Center, considered the largest inland port in North America.
The new interchange design will also benefit commercial drivers, motorists and JJC students entering the city from that location.
“We’re especially excited about the new interchange at Houbolt Road, which just opened this weekend, and I believe the technical term is supercool,” said JJC President Clyne Namuo.
Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman agreed with Namuo’s description of the interchange as “supercool.” Osman noted that Houbolt Road is named after famed aerospace engineer John Houbolt, a Joliet native and JJC alumnus.
“Mr. Houbolt is famously credited with putting a man on the moon. While what we are doing here just might be a little bit smaller in scale, it is going to make a big, big difference for this area for a long time to come,” Osman said.
The overhaul of I-80 will mean increased support for travel demand and the reduction of traffic congestion across Will, Grundy and Kendall counties.
State Rep. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, said the I-80 project is “so long overdue.”
“I-80 was built over 50 years ago and it’s certainly outlived its design,” Manley said.
Pritzer said 12 miles of I-80 will undergo improvements next spring, which will signal the biggest step forward for a project that is “decades in the making.”
“And after that, the interchanges at Center and Chicago streets as well as the big bridges over the Des Plaines River, will be the final pieces of this puzzle to complete,” Prtizker said.
The I-80 project will also include the redesign and rebuild of 16 miles of the interstate, from Ridge Road in Minooka to Route 30 in Joliet and New Lenox, according to state officials.
New shoulders on I-80 will reduce the impact of a crash or a vehicle pulling over, Pritzker said.
“Eight miles of noise walls will help keep surrounding communities and neighborhoods insulated from loud traffic,” Pritzker said.
Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant said the improvements to I-80 will have “real benefit” for residents in the county by making the highway safer and less congested.
“This project is what Rebuild Illinois is all about, making the daily lives of Illinois families better and building the best infrastructure in the nation,” Bertino-Tarrant said.