HODGKINS, Ill. (WLS) -- The Illinois Tollway is preparing to open the new southbound Mile Long Bridge, a stretch of Interstate 294 between 75th Street and La Grange Road, to traffic.
The opening of the new southbound Mile Long Bridge has been pushed to Friday morning due to the rainy forecast. The move will complete the second phase of the $500 million construction project.
Construction crews are getting the final work done on the southbound Mile Long Bridge on I-294, a project that replaced two side-by-side bridges over several bodies of water and railroad tracks. The original Mile Long Bridge was built in 1958.
"It's super exciting, this was such a complex project, something that we started back in 2019," said Cassaundra Rouse, executive director of the Illinois Tollway.
Pavement sealing and striping still needs to get done, and they need dry pavement to make that happen, thus the delay. But when it does open Friday morning, weather permitting, it will be loaded with new safety features, much like the northbound bridge.
The barrier walls are six inches higher with sturdier reinforcements. LED lighting will be installed on both sides along with three crash investigation sites. There is a dedicated water supply for the fire department, so should there be major incident on the bridge, they won't have to pump water from below.
There are also safety features built into the pavement: it's smoother, requiring less maintenance, with all the truck traffic. The grooves in the pavement allow better drainage and less hydroplaning, and with extra wide shoulders and an eventual 5th lane, the north and southbound bridges are 200 feet wide!
While the new bridges are six to eight feet taller than the old ones, it appears the northbound side reaches even higher - but it doesn't. It's just banked coming around the curve!
Over the next two nights, crews will begin moving the barrier walls at both ends of the bridge in order to move traffic over onto the new southbound pavement. Once they do, demolition of the old southbound bridge will begin. That's expected to take about eight months. And all the old concrete? That will be recycled for the next tollway project.
Currently, up to 150,000 cars travel on the Mile Long Bridge every day.