Friday, May 23, 2014

Marion's New Single-Point I-57 Interchange Opens Today

Single-Point Interchange on Route 13 under the I-57 overpass

The $45 million single-point interchange is scheduled to open later this afternoon.

The project to reconstruct the intersection of Interstate 57 and Illinois Route 13 started two years ago.

"The contractor is preparing to open that up to the full configuration by 3 p.m." explained Doug Helfrich, IDOT District 9 construction engineer, on Thursday. "There will be new signals at the I-57 bridge, and those temporary signals will be down."

He says there won't be a big change other than the new traffic signals will be closer to the bridge.

(Of course, he's an IDOT engineer, he probably even likes roundabouts. While I have to grant that the single-point interchanges will be more efficient, as will the roundabout Carbondale announced earlier this month, they do require a lot more thinking than motorists usually give when they're approached for the first few times.)

If you haven't noticed contractors do have the new lights up under the bridge and Helfrich promises "full pavement markings on the road" to guide motorists. Once crews get all of the approaches cleaned up in the next month it should look sharp and we'll wonder how we ever lived without it.

The project is part of the $100 million Illinois is spending on the interchange, expanding Route 13 to six lanes from Route 37 to John A. Logan College, adding new frontage roads, and building an overpass over the Burlington-Northern Railroad just west of the Illinois Star Centre mall.

Work on the interchange project should be completed by July 1. Sometime in mid to late July Helfrich said traffic on Route 13 will be diverted to the new eastbound railroad overpass so work can start prepping the ground for the westbound overpass.

The bad news about the overpass project is the continued restricted access on Garden Way, the new frontage road on the south side of the highway from Sam's Club to Skyline Drive. That will likely delay any development, particularly new restaurants who would normally be anxious to snatch the prime new lots out next to the highway. The big chains like to be on the side of the road that has the heaviest evening rush hour traffic. For Route 13, that's the south side as most of the traffic is heading east on Route 13 in order to get on the interstate, or continue onto and through Marion on the state highway.

That road can't open until the railroad allows the new at-grade crossing on Garden Way to be open. That won't happen until the current Route 13 at-grade crossing is history and both overpasses are operational.

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