Two massive highway projects in southwest Illinois are still in the works, IDOT says

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The Illinois Department of Transportation held a public hearing in Collinsville this month, and officials had a simple message for the dozen or so people who showed up:

They’re still working on two massive, long-term highway projects in the metro-east.

One is the seven-mile relocation of Illinois 3 between Venice and Sauget. The other is the creation of two new routes to reach the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge over the Mississippi River.

“(The plans) are almost exactly the same as they were 10 years ago,” said District 8 Land Acquisition Manager Michael Myler, one of the experts who answered questions and heard comments at the open-house-style hearing on Nov. 16 at the state office building in Collinsville.

What has changed is that parts of each project have been completed since the last public hearing in 2011. Other parts are funded but not completed, and still others are not funded or completed.

State law requires IDOT to hold hearings every 10 years on “protection corridors,” which include publicly and privately owned land that borders major road projects that may take decades to complete.

One reason for the hearings is to help IDOT make sure projects are still viable and feasible, according to Myler. Another is to inform or remind local residents that they’re planned, particularly those who own land in the corridors and need to make decisions for the future.

People are asked to notify IDOT if they’re thinking of selling property in case the state wants to buy it.

“Knowing that there’s a possibility of IDOT building a road there ... It could either encourage people or discourage people (from developing land),” Myler said. “There are some who would love to be near a new highway and others who wouldn’t want to be.”

IDOT established the New Mississippi River Bridge Corridor in 1998 and the Relocated Illinois 3 Corridor in 2002. The vast majority of land is vacant or industrial.

The new Illinois 3 between Venice, where the McKinley Bridge crosses into St. Louis, and Sauget would bypass Brooklyn to the east, then head back southwest, separate from Interstate 55/64.

The current Illinois 3 goes through Brooklyn and runs concurrently with the interstate for about a mile in East St. Louis.

The relocation is designed to improve traffic flow, according to IDOT.

“Route 3 has heavy truck traffic, and Sauget has a large industrial base,” Myler said. “(The new highway) is basically an expressway with four lanes instead of two, and you’d be going over railroad tracks instead of being stopped by trains.”

Two sections of the relocation project have been completed, one in Venice and one between St. Clair Avenue and Riverpark Drive in East St. Louis.

Two more sections have been funded but not completed. Construction is expected to begin within six years, according to IDOT plans. Those sections run from Riverpark Drive to Trendley Avenue ($52 million) and Trendley Avenue to Sauget ($41 million).

IDOT’s Mississippi River bridge highway project has two major components, including one that’s been completed. It split Interstate 70 from Interstate 55 in East St. Louis, taking vehicles northwest to the new Stan Musial bridge, and made Interstate 64 improvements in the vicinity.

The bridge’s total cost, including approaches and other road-related expenses on both sides of the river, came to nearly $700 million.

The second component of the Mississippi River bridge highway project in Illinois isn’t completed or funded. It would split Interstate 70 from Interstate 55 further northeast, before vehicles reach World Wide Technology Raceway, to create another route to the Stan Musial bridge.

Questions and comments about the two projects and corridors can be submitted by printing and mailing an IDOT comment form or by emailing Myler at Michael.Myler@illinois.gov. The deadline is Dec. 16 for submissions to become part of the public record.

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