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State gives green light for interchange project

Area residents voice approval, concerns at public hearing

CHANNAHON — In the midst of the torrential rainfalls that hit the area late afternoon Wednesday, area residents seemingly flooded into the Channahon Village Hall to learn of the details of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s plan to reconstruct the U.S. 6/Interstate 55 interchange at the east end of town.

The public hearing on the project included a narrated slide presentation of the details in the lobby and posters displayed in the board room, along with several IDOT representatives present and a court reporter for those who wished to leave testimony of their opinions.

“It’s fabulous,” village trustee Sam Greco said at the hearing. “It’s long overdue.”

“It’s going to be good for development,” Channahon resident Eric Cox said. “I would like to see some more restaurants come in. We’re very limited on restaurants.”

The project, approved by the state the morning of the public hearing, will consist of the U.S. 6 overpass bridge deck, along with reconstruction and reconfiguration of most of the entrance and exit ramps and frontage roads at the interchange. With Phase I of the project wrapping up this summer, construction could begin in three to six years.

The interchange has been a rather large thorn in the side of residents for a few years, with traffic bottlenecked on and up to the bridge and on exit ramps. At times, south-bound interstate traffic exiting on to U.S. 6 would back up at a standstill on the interstate, creating a dangerous situation.

The $20 million project will be approximately 80 percent funded by the federal government and 20 percent funded by the state. The village is required to contribute 20 percent of the new sections of a 10-foot wide shared use path across the northern edge of the bridge and 5-foot wide sidewalk on the southern bridge edge.

The bridge will be replaced, widened to four lanes with designated left turn lanes onto entrance ramps. Construction will also include U.S. 6 from one-third mile west of the interstate to two-thirds mile east. IDOT studies showed that, currently, frontage roads at the interchange are too close to the ramps for safety, so frontage roads will be moved away from the ramps.

The northwest frontage road will be looped around and to the west of  future development of an area of a gas station/convenience store and potential restaurants and hotel. It will align with the southwest frontage road west of the McDonald’s restaurant and will have a traffic signal at its intersection with U.S. 6.

The southeast frontage road will be moved to come behind the current truck stop on U.S. 6, then intersect U.S. 6 adjacent to the eastern side of the truck stop with a stop sign.

The northeast frontage road will line up with the southeast frontage road and will be moved approximately 1,300 feet east of its current location to just east of the Manor Motel and adjacent strip mall. A landscaped median will separate east- and west-bound U.S. 6 traffic, a situation that concerns Prakesh Silveri and Kamlesh Patel, co-owners of the motel.

“It looks good except for the median,” Patel said as he examined maps at the hearing.

For vehicles to enter the motel parking lot from the interstate, they will have to pass the motel and turn north on to the new frontage road, drive all around the north side of the motel, come back around and travel south a bit, then enter the parking lot.

Channahon Fire Depart-ment Chief John Petrakis attended the hearing with new Deputy Fire Chief of Operations and Safety Jeff Toepper to check out what the department will have to deal with during construction phases of the project.

“We’re getting a balcony view of how the access will be during the construction phase and after the fact,” Petrakis said. “There are a lot of things we will have to evaluate. ... This is a big interchange with a lot of truck traffic that can be carrying hazardous chemicals.

“At first glance, I know we have some challenges as far as access, but it’s nothing that’s going to decrease our ability to serve Channahon.”

There will need to be some property acquisition, according to IDOT officials present at the hearing, including 3.5 acres along U.S. 6, 4.1 acres along the northwest frontage road, 4.6 acres along the northeast frontage road, and 4 acres along the southeast frontage road.

It’s been 12 years since IDOT’s last big project in Channahon, which was to widen U.S. 6 along an 11-mile stretch west of the interstate. Now, with traffic volume expected to increase by 42 percent at the exchange by 2040, officials say it’s time to work on the interchange area.

Another situation that is sure to improve with the project is truck traffic exiting the truck stop east of the interstate. Currently, drivers are not allowed to turn left back on to U.S. 6, and many end up turning right then making a U-turn at McClintock Street or turning left into residential neighborhoods. With the realignment of the frontage roads and the stop sign at the truck stop exit, trucks will be able to make left-hand turns on to U.S. 6.

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