Eisenhower Expressway: Chicago I-290

Supplemental Studies Process/Schedule

2017 FEIS and Record of Decision: In June of 2017, the Illinois Department of Transportation completed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study and received federal approval of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision (ROD), which is the most rigorous level of analysis for a transportation project.

The EIS involved three basic elements: engineering/design studies, environmental analysis, and stakeholder/agency coordination. The NEPA process for the I-290 corridor included 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 Purpose & Need (P&N), which is the first chapter in the Draft EIS, and was the basis for alternative development and evaluation. Alternatives that met the P&N were carried further and analyzed for additional engineering details, social, economic, and environmental factors.

Following IDOT’s Context Sensitive Solutions Process that involved extensive stakeholder coordination thorough alternatives identification and evaluation process was completed.  With an identified purpose and need, this process began with identification of initial alternatives then progressed through three rounds of increasing levels of refinement and evaluation, which culminated in federal approval of a Final EIS and Record of Decision (ROD).

2017 FEIS/ROD Alternatives Evaluation Process

Study Process Graphic

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In June of 2017, the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) was signed by the FHWA that identified the HOT 3+ & EXP & HCT Alternative (also referred to as Alternative HOT 3+) as the Selected Alternative. This alternative consisted of adding one High Occupancy Toll (HOT) 3+ lane (three or more occupants per vehicle required for non-tolled use, or one/two occupants per vehicle paying a toll) in each direction between 25th Avenue and Austin Boulevard; conversion of one existing general purpose lane in each direction west of 25th Avenue and east of Austin Boulevard to HOT 3+ use; and provisions for express bus service and a high capacity transit extension.   Based on an FHWA project Cost Estimate Review in June of 2017, the construction cost of the Selected Alternative was estimated at $3.2 billion.

Supplemental Studies: As the proposed improvement is not currently included in Department’s FY 2019-2024 Proposed Highway Improvement Program and continues to be one of several regional expressway corridors competing for limited available State and Federal funding, the Department must now consider more sustainable solutions for addressing the reconstruction needs of this facility.  Supplemental alternatives analysis and environmental studies for the I-290 corridor will be performed to evaluate additional tolling and lane management alternatives while utilizing the same general geometry and footprint as the previously identified HOT 3+ alternative. The study will develop and evaluate additional toll and congestion priced alternatives, along with the HOT 3+ alternative, with the goal of identifying a preferred alternative that meets the transportation needs while minimizing the impacts to the environment.

As with the original I-290 study, the public outreach program will be extensive and will follow the Department's Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) policy. By definition, this policy provides an interdisciplinary approach that seeks effective, multi-modal transportation solutions by working with stakeholders to develop, build, and maintain cost effective transportation facilities that fit into and reflect the project's surroundings - its "context."

Public involvement activities will include public meetings, Corridor Advisory Group Meetings (CAG) and numerous smaller engagements with the stakeholders. All stakeholder input will be considered in shaping a sustainable solution that meets the various transportation needs and initiatives in the corridor.

Public Involvement Graphic Process

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The supplemental studies will include a high-level evaluation of some initial alternatives.  From there, more detailed evaluation of travel performance will be completed on a set of alternatives using an updated regional travel demand model and CMAP’s 2050 constrained projects and socioeconomic forecasts.  Based on the results of the 2050 performance evaluations and stakeholder input, subsequent study steps will be determined if warranted.

If you have any questions or would like additional information, please contact Brenda Alicea, Consultant Studies Unit Head, at (847) 705-4107.

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.