I-74 improvements could help economy

Gary L. Smith GateHouse Media Illinois
The $86.6-million, multi-year project includes reconstruction of the I-74/I-155 interchange; improvements to the I-74 Morton Avenue interchange and construction of additional lanes.

It’s no secret the long-running road construction project to improve Interstate 74 and its intersection with I-155 has caused some confusion, delays and other headaches for motorists in the area since it began in 2013.

And that has also had an effect on businesses and other usual destinations for those drivers, noted Brian Anderson, who is CEO of the Morton Economic Development Council and executive director of the Morton Chamber of Commerce.

“There’s no question it’s had some impact,” Anderson said of the work, which has included major temporary re-routing changes at the Morton Avenue intersection.

“There’s been road closures and detours through various areas. Traffic counts went down as people learned how to get around that intersection,” he added. “I know that has impacted some of the retailers.”

But the projected completion of the upgrade by the middle of next year should be a boon to Morton, said Anderson and also longtime Village Board member Jeff Kaufman.

“The infrastructure being put in is top-notch. That’s going to be a big advantage,” Kaufman said. “With all this new infrastructure, I think Morton’s sitting on a gold mine.”

Among other things, the $86.5-million, multi-year project includes reconstruction of the I-74/I-155 interchange; improvements to the I-74 Morton Avenue interchange; pavement removal and replacement; and construction of additional lanes, as well as new lighting and highway drainage.

Because the project involves increasing I-74 from four lanes to six in the area, it not only enhances safety.  “It will be much easier to get into and out of Morton,” Anderson said.

Work is expected to continue through late November before breaking for the winter, said IDOT spokesman Brian Williamsen. It will resume “as soon as possible” in the spring, he added, when there will be a focus on finalizing the Morton Avenue interchange.

“The summer of 2016 will wrap it up,” Williamsen said.

The I-74/I-155 interchange is busy, and the improvements could make Morton even more appealing for future development, Kaufman suggested.

“I think you’ll find more businesses wanting to come here,” he said. “I don’t know how a community of 15,000 people could be sitting any better.”

Transportation is important in a community like Morton that has emphasized logistics and distribution businesses, Anderson said.

“I think at the end of the day,” he added, “it’s going to be a good thing for the economy.”