JOLIET – The northbound lanes of Interstate 55 over the Des Plaines River have reopened, state transportation officials announced Thursday.
Southbound lanes between Arsenal Road and Bluff Road are set to reopen Friday or Saturday morning, weather permitting, according to a news release from the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Intermittent night-time lane closures should continue to complete some work on and near the bridges.
State Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Elwood, said Wednesday he hopes the reopening of lanes will alleviate some of the semitrailer traffic congestion along local roads.
He said he hopes truckers will now make use of the I-55/Arsenal Road interchange, completed two years ago to handle the truck traffic around CenterPoint Properties' two trucking intermodals in Joliet and Elwood.
“Ever since the Arsenal Road interchange came in, there's always been some type of construction going on that kind of diverted some traffic from utilizing that,” Walsh Jr. said. “Once this corridor opens up and truckers realize the ease of getting in and out of the industrial parks by way of I-55, I think you'll see some of the traffic ease up a bit on our other routes.”
I-55 over the Des Plaines River Bridge has been plagued with major traffic congestion during the past two construction seasons, but last month’s fatal chain-reaction crash brought the traffic issue back to the forefront. Five people, including two from the area, died as a result of a July 21 collision involving a semitrailer in the I-55 construction zone. A second collision that same day resulted in the death of a sixth man. Last year, sudden backups resulted in 172 crashes and two fatalities between July and November.
The construction project cost about $7.65 million. It included repairs to the twin 58-year-old truss bridges’ pier, abutment and structural steel, along with new decks and a paint job.