NORWOOD PARK — The Kennedy Expressway needs an additional lane in each direction between I-190 and Harlem Avenue to relieve major congestion that has contributed to an accident every 36 hours during the last four years, according to state officials.
A public meeting is scheduled Thursday to unveil the plan endorsed by the Illinois Department of Transportation after a year-long study of the two-mile stretch of the Kennedy Expressway, also known as Interstate 90, which is frequently bumper-to-bumper with traffic before, during and after rush hour.
The plan, which is estimated to cost at least $43 million, could improve safety and benefit residents of the Far Northwest Side by making a "dangerous" stretch of roadway safer, Ald. Mary O'Connor (41st) said.
The plan would improve the flow of traffic by reducing the number of entrances to the Kennedy, which is typically jammed solid eastbound by cars leaving the airport traveling downtown and packed westbound by commuters heading to jobs in the suburbs.
On the eastbound side of the Kennedy, a fourth lane of traffic would be added between Cumberland and Harlem avenues to allow cars to merge into traffic without slowing the flow of traffic, according to the plan.
In addition, a direct ramp from the Jane Addams Tollway would allow cars to merge onto the eastbound Kennedy at Cumberland Avenue.
The Illinois Tollway plans to widen the Jane Addams Tollway by adding a lane in each direction, which will increase the amount of traffic merging onto the Kennedy Expressway near the city limits.
On the westbound Kennedy, a fourth lane of traffic would be added between Cumberland and Harlem avenues as well as a two-lane ramp to the Cumberland interchange from southbound Interstate 294, also known as the Tri-State Tollway, and Interstate 190, a three-mile expressway that links the Kennedy and O'Hare Airport.
A new road would be built along the westbound Kennedy between Cumberland and I-190 to allow the entrances and exits at Cumberland to be moved away from the main flow of traffic.
Between 2007 and 2011, there were 1,083 crashes on the Kennedy from I-190 and Harlem Avenue that caused 150 injures and four deaths, state officials said. A crash typically occurred every 36 hours, most near the Cumberland and Harlem interchanges, officials said.
The final design of the project is expected to be completed this spring, with the approval by various state and federal agencies taking another 12 to 18 months, said Jae Miller, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Transportation.
In addition, state officials have not yet secured funding for the project, which is likely to come from a variety of state and federal sources, Miller said.
Construction could take as long as two years, Miller said. Work would cause the temporary closure of the Des Plaines River Trail bridge on the west side of East River Road over Interstate 90, officials said.
If the freeway is widened, it would come closer to nearby homes and businesses, which are in some cases just across a two-lane road from the current path of the expressway.
Included in the project would be noise-barrier walls at six locations along the expressway, three on the south side between Cumberland and Canfield avenues; Canfield and Oriole avenues; and Oriole Avenue and the Harlem Avenue off ramp.
On the north side of the expressway, noise-barrier walls are proposed between the Harlem Avenue entrance ramp and Oriole Avenue; Oriole and Canfield avenues and along the expressway, across Linden Avenue to the rear parking lot of the Springhill Suites Hotel, 8101 W. Higgins Road.
O'Connor said she would work with state officials to ensure that the walls blend in with the community as much as possible with ivy or other camouflage.
The additional lanes and ramps will minimize the number of times cars, trucks and motorcycles need to change lanes, preventing accidents, officials said.
Nearly 62 percent of the crashes on the Kennedy between I-190 and Harlem were rear-end collisions and another 23 percent were sideswipe crashes. That indicates heavy congestion, officials said.
A majority of the two-mile stretch earns a failing grade from state officials for the level of congestion.
State transportation officials will hold a public meeting and open house from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Holiday Inn Chicago O'Hare, 5615 N. Cumberland Ave., to discuss the project.
Comments about the project can be submitted until Feb. 27 online or by mail to Marie Glynn, P.E., IDOT District 1, 201 W. Center Court, Schaumburg, IL 60196.