Work is expected to begin in January on widening a major freight highway in southern Illinois.

The $67.6 million project will expand 9 miles of Interstate 57 from four to six lanes between state highways 149 and 154. This is the next phase of a $264 million plan to widen I-57 in southern Illinois.

The interstate is part of the National Highway Freight Network. The southern Illinois section handles 40,000 vehicles a day, 14,000 of which are trucks. The widening announcement follows advance construction beginning on another major freight corridor through Illinois. The $1.2 billion I-80 reconstruction project will rebuild 16 miles of the interstate, which leads to the largest inland port in North America.

Governor JB Pritzker called the widening project “the most significant investment in I-57 since its original development.” He said it would improve safety and the reliability of the freight network, create jobs and support regional economic development.

The next widening phase follows the expansion of I-57 by 4.5 miles south of West Frankfort, completed in 2020, and the ongoing widening north for 3.5 miles. The construction is being funded by the $33.2 billion Rebuild Illinois program enacted in 2019 with a doubling of the state’s gas tax and with federal funds.

The upcoming project will occur near Benton and also includes installing median barrier, resurfacing the existing lanes, updating deficient guardrail, and adding rumble strips, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. The bridges over the Big Muddy River will be replaced. The phase is expected to be completed in 2025.

Future phases will eventually widen I-57 to Mt. Vernon, reconstruct the I-57/64 interchange with Illinois 15 and replace three bridges, at an estimated cost of $164 million, also to be paid for by Rebuild Illinois.

“The I-57 corridor is one of the most important in our system, but it’s prone to backups and congestion that can spill over into neighboring communities,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “Under Gov. Pritzker, we are transforming I-57 to accommodate 21st century transportation, as we are doing throughout Southern Illinois and the entire state.”

 

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