"Back in 1990, IDOT did a feasibility study to look at the interstate...we had a lot of high-accident locations, and the safety problems were starting to build up," says Eric Therkildsen, program development engineer for IDOT. He notes that the highway’s safety rating was in some cases 15 times worse than the state average in high-traffic spots. One focus is an 8-mile stretch of concrete pavement between Peoria and East Peoria that IDOT engineers estimate carries 60,000 commuters daily.

Image courtesy of Invision Studios/IDOT

Halverson Construction Co. Inc., Springfield, is wrapping up preparation work that includes $5 million in bridge repairs. On April 25, IDOT will let three remaining contracts, the first of which is valued at about $100 million. Major construction will begin in May.

"We will have a number of different contracts on this project simultaneously, so trying to pull them all together will be tough," says George Ryan, IDOT project implementation engineer. He says IDOT will overhaul 46 bridges and 44 ramps, widen lanes and install an intelligent transportation system costing $7 million.

In April 2005, IDOT will shut down the 2,343-ft Murray Baker Bridge over the Illinois River and remove 180 ft of truss so it can widen the merge space for vehicles. The Peoria approach will feature a 509-ft-long flair, from 61 to 144 ft wide, resting on a new beam-and-deck structure.

"When we shorten the truss, the challenge is making sure we will have no sudden release of energy," says David Morill, vice president and project director for Alfred Benesch & Co., Chicago, oversight consultant for the I-74 project. IDOT expects to reopen the bridge in October 2006 and finish the entire upgrade in December 2006.

he Illinois Dept. of Transportation is about to rebuild a dangerous 44-year-old arterial highway connecting manufacturing communities Peoria and East Peoria. Officials say the four-year, $400-million overhaul of Interstate 74 will be IDOT’s most costly undertaking ever in downstate Illinois.