An intergovernmental agreement authorizing the Village of Rosemont to finance and construct a new, all-electronic exit ramp on the northbound Tri-State Tollway (I-294) to Balmoral Avenue was approved by the Illinois Tollway Board of Directors on Thursday, Feb. 24.
The $25 million project will have a major positive effect on the village and area as it will allow thousands of more cars daily easier access to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont Theater and numerous local hotels and restaurants.
The locally financed agreement is a first-of-its-kind for the Tollway, and is expected to be approved by the Rosemont Village Board in March as part of plans underway to expand the village’s entertainment and retail developments. Construction will begin this spring and the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2011.
While the Illinois Tollway regularly works with local communities to plan and build new ramps and interchanges, this is the first time that a local community will assume the lead role in financing and constructing a Tollway interchange project. The interchange will spur economic development and ease congestion around the developing entertainment district designed by the Village of Rosemont.
“I’m pleased as punch,” said Rosemont Mayor Bradley Stephens. “This will really help development of the Balmoral Avenue area.”
“The Balmoral project is an excellent example of what government can accomplish when state and local agencies work together on projects to improve mobility and foster economic development,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur. “This project is a win-win for the Tollway, Rosemont, local businesses and drivers traveling into and around the O’Hare Airport area.”
The Balmoral Interchange currently includes an entrance ramp to the southbound Tri-State Tollway from Balmoral Avenue. That project was built by the Tollway in the early 1990’s in coordination with the Illinois Department of Transportation and the City of Chicago and included funding from Rosemont to cover property acquisition.
The new northbound exit ramp to Balmoral Avenue from the Tri-State Tollway will provide direct access to Rosemont’s developing entertainment district north of Balmoral Avenue, including restaurants, hotels and recreation facilities, and also complement a new, mixed commercial and retail development in this area, including a new outlet mall slated to begin construction later this year.
In addition, the Village of Rosemont is building new roadway infrastructure adjacent to and connecting Balmoral Avenue. A westerly extension of Balmoral Avenue is planned for construction in 2015, which will provide direct access to the international terminal of O’Hare Airport, along with a full interchange with Mannheim Road.
The new ramp to Balmoral Avenue is also expected to offer regional transportation benefits for the Tollway and surrounding area, including improved access to and around O’Hare International Airport and a nearby Metra station, as well as congestion relief for the nearby I-190 ramps to the north.
“The Balmoral Interchange project provides a unique and different way for the Illinois Tollway to work with local communities to finance interchange and infrastructure improvements,” said Illinois Tollway Board Director Maria Saldańa. “This agreement can serve as an alternate model for how the Tollway can address future interchange requests moving forward.”
Under the agreement, Rosemont will finance the estimated $25 million construction cost up front and take the lead on construction. Consistent with its Interchange Policy to pay for half of the cost of interchange improvements, the Tollway will contribute half of the toll revenue it collects on the new ramp for a maximum of 25 years. If the Tollway increases tolls at the ramp, the agency will keep 100% of the increase. The Tollway’s contribution is capped at half of the actual construction costs, plus financing costs capped at a 6% interest rate.
Once the intergovernmental agreement is finalized and approved by the Rosemont Village Board, Rosemont and the Tollway will finalize construction plans and Rosemont will seek competitive construction bids for the project. The Illinois Tollway will approve all construction contract awards, as well and any significant contract changes. In addition, the Tollway will assign a project manager to oversee construction management and quality control and has full inspection rights.
Further, the agreement requires that Rosemont set goals for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) participation when hiring contractors to work on the project. The Tollway will provide technical assistance to Rosemont as it establishes and administers DBE goals.
The new ramp will provide all-electronic toll collection as the majority of traffic expected to use the interchange are drivers with I-PASS. The proposed toll rate for passenger vehicles will be 80 cents. Cash-paying customers will have access to the existing interchange to the north at I-190/River Road.