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January 19, 2013

I-57 widening project causes backups

MT. VERNON — — While Mayor Mary Jane Chesley calls the Interstate 57 widening project a “growing pain,” motorists are calling it a pain of a different kind.

Work on the expansion started in 2011. The scope of the work has been to expand the area from four lanes to six lanes as part of the I-57 Corridor, which will ultimately mean motorists will have six lanes from Mt. Vernon, south to Marion.

According to information from the Illinois Department of Transportation, crews are replacing the existing asphalt surfaces for continuously reinforced concrete pavement over the existing pavement. The additional lane is built inside of the existing pavement for a 4.7 mile stretch from north of Mt. Vernon to mile post 92, to south of Mt. Vernon at mile post 95. Minor bridge work and patching has also been included in the work.

When the project first started, IDOT anticipated delays.

“Due to the high volume of traffic, slowdowns and congestion are anticipated,” early information on the project stated.

Carrie Nelsen, Program Development Engineer for IDOT District 9, said at this time, construction crews are in the final phase of the project in Jefferson County.

“The project has a completion date of Dec. 1, 2013,” Nelsen said.

Mt. Vernon Mayor Mary Jane Chesley said in her State of the City presentation she and other city leaders are looking forward to the widening project completion.

“It’s a pain, but it’s a growing pain that will come to an end shortly,” Chesley said.

The construction on the Interstate has been one of the factors leading to lower sales tax receipts. Last month, City Finance Director Merle Hollmann presented the council with its second quarter budget numbers. He reported some sales tax receipts were lower than projected.

“We believe the decrease in sales taxes is mostly attributed to the work on the Interstate,” Hollmann said. “We really have no way of knowing for sure, but if you look at the diesel tax, it’s way down, and that is directly related to Interstate traffic.”

Nelsen said although there are no billed working days for construction during the month of January, there is work that construction crews complete to stay on schedule.

“This is a completion date contract, not a number of working days contract,” Nelsen explained. “They have to finish their work and get out of there by the completion date, so there is some work they can do in the winter, they get it done to stay on schedule.”

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