PULLMAN — Illinois is in the early planning stages to renovate the 111th Street interchange on the Bishop Ford Freeway, a hotspot for crashes where the design limits pedestrian and bicycle access to nearby attractions, officials said.
The Illinois Department of Transportation has begun an engineering and environmental study to improve the 111th Street interchange and surrounding areas on the Pullman-South Deering border.
The study area roughly covers 111th Street between Corliss Avenue and Doty Avenue East, and the Bishop Ford Freeway between 109th and 115th streets.
During the study, officials will analyze conditions in the area, evaluate what improvements would be useful and gather public input to determine a path forward. The study is expected to be finished in mid-2025.
The project is “the missing link” between the Chicago transportation department’s planned upgrades to 111th Street and a proposed Lake Calumet Trail, said Steve Schilke, project and environmental studies section chief for the transportation department.
“The good news is that this [area] is on our radar,” Schilke said Thursday during the state’s first public meeting on the plans. The open house was held at Olive-Harvey College, 10001 S. Woodlawn Ave.
The study is the project’s first phase and would lead to a final design and land acquisition before construction.
The design and construction phases have not been funded, but are among the state’s priorities for future projects, transportation officials said.
“Certainly one of the hurdles is finding funding for this, but first we’ve got to have a plan, and that’s why we’re here,” Schilke said.
More than 1,700 crashes took place at or near the interchange between 2016 and 2021, the latest data available, according to the transportation department.
Two spots on Interstate 94 — near 111th Street and near 115th Street — were among the “most critical” sites in Illinois for crash severity and frequency, Schilke said.
Interstate 94 is also a barrier for bicyclists and pedestrians, as the 111th Street bridge doesn’t connect to Doty Avenue and areas east of the expressway, officials said. The bridge also lacks sidewalks or shared-use paths.
The area is also prone to flooding due to its proximity to Lake Calumet and the Doty Ditch, as Interstate 94 has flooded at least 11 times since 1998, officials said.
The Harborside International Golf Center and Big Marsh Park — the latter of which features an environmental center, bike tracks and jumps, birding paths and commissioned art — are among the attractions east of the expressway.
Transportation advocates have proposed a Lake Calumet Trail, which they say would improve travel between Big Marsh Park and the Pullman National Monument near 111th Street while creating access points for Lake Calumet visitors.
Plans for the trail start near the Harborside golf course entrance drive, follow a new bridge over Lake Calumet, then cross over Stony Island Avenue and an adjacent railroad before ending at Big Marsh Park.
The state’s transportation department is keeping a close eye on the trail project, Schilke said. Officials are also open to exploring “some type of interim solution” to better connect Pullman and South Deering if the trail is finished before the state’s interchange project, he said.
The 111th Street overpass was initially built in 1960 and its deck was replaced in 1986. Needed bridge repairs and painting will be done before the study is completed, officials said.
Traffic noise will be analyzed during the study, and officials will consider whether to build noise barriers “in any areas where the future noise levels are predicted to be at or higher than federal noise regulation criteria,” officials said.
To give feedback on the project, or for more information on joining the study’s community advisory group, email email@example.com.
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