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Widening of I-57 near Johnston City to start in 2019

updated: 3/9/2018 9:40 AM

CARBONDALE -- Using a $7.6 million federal grant, a five-mile stretch of Interstate 57 between Johnston City and Pond Creek will be expanded, U.S. Rep. Mike Bost and the Illinois Department of Transportation said Wednesday.

In a news release, authorities said the grant will add lanes, to help ease the traffic flow in this often-congested section of highway -- enhancing safety and improving the flow of commerce. Construction is expected to begin in Spring 2019 and finish in late 2020.

"It not only will improve safety along a dangerous stretch of highway between Marion and Mount Vernon, but also has the potential to lead to economic development around Benton and other points in between," Bost said in the statement.

The money will add a new lane in each direction, resurface existing lanes and install new pavement markings, rumble strips, guardrails and median barriers to prevent crossover crashes.

The interstate is vital to the nation's freight network. About 39,300 vehicles travel I-57 through Williamson and Franklin counties each day, nearly a third of which is truck traffic. That number can surge to more than 65,000 vehicles a day during high-travel periods in the summer, causing traffic backups that spill onto surrounding local roads and creating gridlock throughout the region.

"These improvements will have a huge impact on the safety, reliability and efficiency on a key segment of I-57," said Gov. Bruce Rauner in the release.

"Interstate 57 is critical to the economy of our state and a major reason why Illinois is the freight capital of the Midwest," said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn, adding the expansion is overdue.

The grant is being funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. The total estimated cost of construction is $12.7 million.