Eisenhower Expressway: Chicago I-290

Study Process/Schedule

The Eisenhower is severely congested, experiences 2000 crashes per year on average, with most of pavement and bridges still original to their 1950’s construction and in need of replacement. To address these issues, the Illinois Department of Transportation initiated the Eisenhower Expressway Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Study, from Mannheim Road to Cicero Avenue, in the fall of 2009 and subsequently the study limit was extended east to Racine Avenue.

The purpose of the I-290 study is to improve transportation along the I-290 multi-modal corridor. The specific transportation needs identified include: improve mobility for regional and local travel, improve access to employment, improve safety, improve transit connections and opportunities, and improve facility deficiencies. The evaluation of alternatives to address these needs, stakeholder involvement, and a detailed analysis of engineering and environmental impacts will continue to occur.

The I-290 study is following the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and will involve the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which is the most rigorous level of analysis for a transportation project. An EIS involves three basic elements: engineering/design studies, environmental analysis, and stakeholder/agency coordination. The NEPA process for the I-290 corridor is following a process that includes multiple steps, beginning with Data Collection to assess existing/future conditions. Data Collection includes roadway, transit, freight railroad, non-motorized facilities, services, travel characteristics, safety, condition, and right-of-way. View the Existing Transportation Systems Performance (ETSP) Report.

The technical studies and stakeholder/agency coordination led to the P&N (Purpose & Need), which is a concise summary of the transportation issues to be addressed. Those needs include:

  • Improve mobility for regional and local travel
  • Improve access to employment
  • Improve safety
  • Improve transit connections and opportunities
  • Improve roadway deficiencies

These needs were incorporated into the P&N (Purpose & Need), which is the first chapter in the Draft EIS, and the first basic test for alternatives. Alternatives that meet the P&N are carried further and analyzed for additional engineering details, social, economic, and environmental factors.

The alternatives evaluation process began with Round 1, which involved synthesizing over 600 ideas from stakeholders into 21 single-mode concepts; the purpose of Round 1 was to understand performance contributions of individual modes, answer questions relative to stand alone transit options, and gain insight for the identification of combination mode alternatives. The major findings from Round 1 were summarized in our alternatives report. The Round 1 results showed that while the single-mode transit alternatives offer some travel benefits, they did not indicate any improvement to I-290 travel performance. The travel market area served by I-290 is significantly larger than the market area served by transit. Overall, the single-mode expressway alternatives resulted in the best travel improvements locally and regionally. At the conclusion of Round 1, two single mode alternatives, the Blue Line Conversion to Bus Rapid Transit Alternative, and the Blue Line and Bus Rapid Transit Alternatives along the Prairie Path were dropped from further consideration as part of a combination mode alternative.

Round 2 involved the evaluation of 10 multimodal combination alternatives, which was then increased to 12 alternatives based upon stakeholder requests. The scoring system used for Round 2 served to highlight the relative strengths and weaknesses of a broad range of alternatives, and to inform decisions regarding which alternatives to evaluate further. At the request of project stakeholders, a revised scoring approach was developed that weighted scores of individual evaluation criteria based on the relative performance. Using this revised scoring system, the same four alternatives were the top performers. This confirmed the validity of the original scoring system, and the study proceeded with the recommendation to carry four combination alternatives and the No-Action Alternative into Round 3.

Round 3 was initiated through a series of individual stakeholder meetings that will continue into the winter of 2015/16 to further coordinate the refinement of the 4 remaining alternatives. These four alternatives include a general purpose lane alternative, two managed lane alternatives (a high occupancy vehicle [HOV] and a high occupancy toll [HOT] alternatives), and a tolling alternative for all lanes. Ongoing design refinements, environmental studies, and stakeholder input will influence the identification of a preferred alternative.

Round 3 alternatives will be analyzed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. After the release of the Draft EIS, a Public Hearing will be conducted seeking comment, and the Final Environmental Impact Statement will be issued.

Study Process Graphic

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Alternatives Development & Evaluation

The Alternatives Development and Evaluation phase involves technical analysis and working with the public and project stakeholders to identify improvement alternatives and potential evaluation criteria. This phase is divided into evaluation rounds that become progressively more detailed as they advance.

The progressive rounds of the alternatives development and evaluation phase are graphically described in the graphic below.

Alternatives Development and Evaluation graphic

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To identify initial alternatives for modeling and evaluation, stakeholder ideas were first categorized by their primary transportation mode and then grouped by similarity. The number of alternatives was further refined based on: feasibility, impacts, performance, cost, and additional stakeholder input.

The alternatives evaluation process includes the examination of all modes of travel within the transportation system and includes coordination with area transportation agencies (i.e. RTA, CTA, etc.), and their needs in the corridor. The three evaluation rounds can be summarized as follows:

  • Round 1 - The identification and evaluation of single-mode alternatives, which are alternatives that consider changes to or improvements of only one mode of transportation, to understand the performance benefits of improvements to individual modes as to how well they addressed the Purpose & Need. The results of the Round 1 Single-Mode Evaluation are available in the Initial Alternatives and Identification Report, which is available on this website.
  • Round 2 – Based on the results of the Round 1 Single-Mode Evaluation, an initial set of combination mode alternatives were assembled for evaluation in Round 2. Combination-mode alternatives include improvements to, or additions of, more than one mode of transportation (e.g. transit and expressway improvements). In Round 2, the alternatives performance is evaluated as to how well they address the identified purpose and need. Top performing alternatives are then considered for further refinement and evaluation in Round 3. The results of the Round 2 Combination-Mode Evaluation are available in the Initial Alternatives and Identification Report, which is available on this website.
  • Round 3 – The top performing Round 2 Combination Mode alternatives are carried forward for further refinement and evaluation in Round 3. Round 3 will add design details and incorporate additional analysis including additional travel benefits, environmental effects, construction staging costs, and funding. At the end of Round 3, alternatives to be further refined and evaluated in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement will be identified.

The Study Team will consider and evaluate alternatives based on technical studies and stakeholder input received throughout the I-290 study. Stakeholders are encouraged to continue to get involved in the study process by regularly providing comments and feedback, visiting the project website, and attending public meetings.

Under the provisions of NEPA, multiple alternatives, including the "No Action" alternative, will be examined during this process, initial impacts to the surrounding community will be evaluated and key environmental factors will be identified. Public involvement and context sensitivity will continue to be applied throughout this study.

Preferred Alternative

The Round 3 finalist alternatives identified in the Alternatives Development and Evaluation phase will undergo more detailed engineering and environmental analysis to evaluate environmental impacts and further refine how well they address the I-290 study's identified needs. The environmental analysis includes assessing the natural, built, and human environment to determine the extent of impacts that may arise from implementing an improvement. Environmental factors including air quality, noise, socioeconomic impacts, environmental justice, and cultural resources will be assessed.

These findings, in addition to the findings from previous steps, will be reported in the Environmental Impact Statement. The Preferred Alternative phase concludes with a recommendation of a Preferred Alternative.