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Interstate 294 Illinois

 

For its entire route, Interstate 294 follows the Tri-State Tollway. Near the south end of the tollway, on the section it shares with Interstate 80, Interstate 294/Tri-State Tollway crosses over a huge quarry between the Interstate 94 interchange and Illinois 1 (Halsted Avenue) interchange. This pit is several square miles wide, and it is on both sides of the highway. In this scene, Interstate 80-294 crosses a small portion of the quarry via a steel girder bridge. The bridge is made distinct by all the trucks on the Interstate 80-294 roadway. Photo taken by Don Hargraves (2001).

Routing

The Tri-State Tollway, designated Interstate 294 between Lansing and Deerfield, was designed initially as a bypass route around Chicago to connect suburban Chicago. However, Interstate 294 has become as important as any of the intercity expressways, as it connects the suburbs with O'Hare International Airport and the rapidly growing residential and business demands of the region. Avoiding much of the city, Interstate 294 is a heavily traveled route with six to eight lanes for much of its length. Interstate 294 is signed north-south and bypasses Interstate 94, which is signed east-west.

A new Chicagoland bypass, already initiated with the construction of Interstate 355 and Interstate 290, is planned to provide relief to Interstate 294. This includes extending Interstate 355 south to Interstate 80, likely down to Interstate 57, then possibly east to Interstate 65 and even northeast to Interstate 80/90 or Interstate 94. This plan also includes creating Interstate 594 as a tollway from the northwestern terminus of Interstate 290 north to meet Interstate 94 north of the northern terminus of Interstate 294. However, any such extension is years away, and each segment is being contested.

Planned Improvements

There is an ongoing expansion project to widen the road to eight lanes in many areas around the city. The latest is the expansion of Interstate 294 from Illinois 394 north to the 163rd Street Toll Plaza. The $238 million expansion project will bring the tollway up to eight overall lanes, and construction is currently underway. This expansion has been delayed several times; in fact, the most recent delay was announced by Illinois State Toll Highway Authority on September 18, 2003, that the planned expansion was pushed back to 2005 (as compared to an original proposed construction date in late 2003 or early 2004).

The decision to delay was based upon the Illinois Department of Transportation postponement of a companion widening project on the Kingery Expressway near the Indiana state line.1 Now the project is in full construction, so visit Kingery Expressway: On the Move to Improve and Illinois Tollway for the latest information. The first phase of widening Interstate 294 from Illinois 394/Interstate 94 interchange to 167th Street began in January 2005 and was completed in Fall 2006. The second phase, which includes expanding Interstate 294/Tri-State Tollway between U.S. 6/159th Street and U.S. 12-20/95th Street, began in 2007.3

History

The Tri-State Tollway, which carries Interstate 294 from Lansing northwest to Deerfield, was constructed starting in 1956 and was completed by 1958.2 This construction of the 83-mile Tri-State Tollway (and the other original tollways) was funded by a bond issuance in the amount of $415 million by the state tollway commission.4 All of the urban tollways (including the Tri-State Tollway, the Northwest Tollway, the easternmost portion of the East-West Tollway, and the Chicago Skyway) were open to traffic by 1958.

Some older maps showed Interstate 294 continuing east past its interchange with Interstate 94. At that time, Interstate 90 was planned to follow the Calumet (Bishop Ford) expressway and connect with Interstate 80 near Lansing. Interstate 94 was planned to follow the Chicago Skyway and Indiana Toll Road through Gary. In those early maps, Interstate 294 was slated to continue, merged with Interstate 80/90, all the way to Hobart and the Interstate 94 interchange. However, the route was retracted when Interstates 90 and 94 swapped places.

Southern Terminus - Interstate 94 and Illinois 394 - southwest of Lansing, Illinois
Perspective from Interstate 80-294/Tri-State Tollway east
Interstate 80 and Interstate 294 briefly overlap for the final distance to Interstate 94/Bishop Ford (Calumet) Expressway. Here, southbound Interstate 294 and eastbound Interstate 80 (Tri-State Tollway) meet Illinois 1/Halsted Avenue. The final exit is the junction with Interstate 94 west (north) to Chicago and Illinois 394 south to Crete and Danville. Photo taken by Patrick Lilja (07/22/07).
The Illinois Tollway holds the distinction of being among the only portions of the Interstate Highway System not to carry exit numbers. A mile or so east of the Illinois 1 interchange is this advance guide sign for the junction with Interstate 94 and Illinois 394. Note the pull-through sign, which features a control city of Indiana for Interstate 80-94/Kingery Expressway east. Interstate 294 is not mentioned. Photo taken by Patrick Lilja (07/22/07).
Prior to the Interstate 94 and Illinois 394 interchange is the final oasis (service plaza) on the Tri-State Tollway. Known as the Chicago Southland Lincoln Oasis, it offers food and gas as well as tourist information (Illinois and Chicago Southland Welcome Center). Traffic connecting to Interstate 94 west (north) to Chicago and to Illinois 394 south to Danville should use the right lanes, while the left lanes continue for through traffic. Photo taken by Patrick Lilja (07/22/07).
The right lane of the Tri-State Tollway (fresh from the Lincoln Oasis onramp) becomes exit only for Interstate 94 west (north) and Illinois 394 south. A small roadside sign thanks motorists for using the Illinois Tollway System. Photo taken by Patrick Lilja (07/22/07).
The right two lanes of the Tri-State Tollway become exit only for the ramp connection to Interstate 94/Bishop Ford (Calumet) Expressway west (north) to Chicago and Illinois 394/Bishop Ford (Calumet) Expressway south to Crete and Danville. An END Interstate 294 sign is posted on this guide sign. A new flyover ramp connects eastbound Interstate 80 to northbound (inbound) Interstate 94. The former loop ramp is gone now, but the next several photos show the former interchange configuration and old END signs. Photo taken by Patrick Lilja (07/22/07).
Before the Interstate 80 and Interstate 294 interchange was reconstructed, the interchange was a cloverleaf with no flyover ramps. Here, eastbound Interstate 80 reaches the ramp to Illinois 394 south. You can see the old "Route Interstate 294 Ends" sign in context with the interchange here. Illinois 394 terminates at this interchange too. Photo taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (4/01).
Again looking back, before the Interstate 80 and Interstate 294 interchange was reconstructed, this END Interstate 294 sign was posted at the foot of the Illinois 394 overpass. With reconstruction, this loop ramp to Interstate 94 west (north) was eliminated. Photos taken by Stephen Summers (12/00).
The Zero Milepost for Interstate 294 is located in the median before Interstate 80 and Interstate 94 merge together and pass through the Bishop Ford Expressway interchange. The tollway ends, and the Kingery Expressway begins. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (06/24/07).
Perspective from Interstate 80-94/U.S. 6-41 (Borman Expressway) west
Now traveling west on Interstate 80-94 and U.S. 6-41 (Borman Expressway), the first appearance of signage for the Interstate 94 split and junction with Interstate 294 and Illinois 394 (Bishop Ford/Calumet Expressway south) is this sign located in Indiana prior to the U.S. 41/Calumet Avenue split at Exit 1. There is no mention of Interstate 294 on the overhead signs in Indiana. Photo taken by Patrick Lilja (08/07/07).
Perspective from Interstate 80-94/U.S. 6 (Borman Expressway) west
After U.S. 41/Calumet Avenue departs from Interstate 80-94/U.S. 6 at Exit 1, a final overhead sign sign assembly is posted on westbound Borman Expressway before the freeway enters the state of Illinois. Despite exit numbering that might imply the contrary, the first exit within the state of Illinois is Exit 160, Junction Interstate 94 north (west) to Chicago and Illinois 394 south to Crete and Danville. The subsequent exit is Exit 161, Junction U.S. 6 west and Illinois 83 (Torrence Avenue) north and south. This is a change as a result of a massive reconstruction project of the Interstate 80, Interstate 94, Interstate 294, and Illinois 394 interchange. Notably, Interstate 294 is still not mentioned on the overhead signs. Photo taken by Patrick Lilja (08/07/07).
Perspective from Interstate 80-94/U.S. 6 (Kingery Expressway) west
Entering the Land of Lincoln, westbound Interstate 80-94 and U.S. 6 shifts onto the Kingery Expressway. Immediately, the freeway prepares to split. The right two lanes carry Interstate 94 west (north) to downtown Chicago, while the left four lanes continue along Interstate 80 west and Interstate 294 north via the Tri-State Tollway. The split of Interstate 80 and Interstate 94 now happens before Exit 161, Junction U.S. 6 and Illinois 83 (Torrence Avenue). Note that this guide sign is the first to include Interstate 294/Tri-State Tollway. Photo taken by Patrick Lilja (08/07/07).
Interstate 80 and Interstate 94 split here. For another quarter of a mile, U.S. 6 will continue along with Interstate 80-294 west until reaching Exit 161. Thereafter, Interstate 80-294 connect onto the tollway. For Illinois 394, use the ramp to Interstate 94 west. Note that the Interstate 94 exit is actually collector-distributor lanes, so traffic may exit here and return to Interstate 80-294 west after the Torrence Avenue overpass Photo taken by Patrick Lilja (08/07/07).
This series of photos examines westbound Kingery Expressway from before the new interchange was completed. Note that the 2006 photo shows all traffic using the local lanes. Westbound Interstates 80-94 approaches Torrence Avenue (Illinois 83) just after crossing the state line from Indiana. This sign bridge includes the first mentioning of Interstate 294. Tall light masts are used at the Torrence Avenue and Interstate 80-94-294 and Illinois 394/Bishop Ford Expressway interchange. The Torrence Avenue interchange was a modified cloverleaf with lots of merging, especially coming from Illinois 83 onto Interstate 80-94 westbound or (even worse) Illinois 394 southbound. This whole area is being reconstructed. Photos taken by Steve Hanudel (05/14/06) and Eric W. Vander Yacht (4/01).
Again showing the old configuration: Continuing west after passing under Torrence Avenue, Interstate 80-94/Kingery Expressway west approaches their split and the junction with Interstate 294/Tri-State Tollway north and Illinois 394/Bishop Ford Expressway south. While the previous sign bridge omitted Interstate 80, this sign bridge omits Illinois 394 south. The Calumet Expressway exit is mentioned on the auxiliary guide sign in the distance on the left, but not as it should be on this sign bridge here. (Note the 2006 detour of Illinois 394 due to the construction of a new direct connection ramp.) Photos taken by Steve Hanudel (05/14/06) and Eric W. Vander Yacht (4/01).
Again looking at the old configuration: The Kingery Expressway expands to four lanes with two for Interstate 94 west and two for Interstate 80 west and Interstate 294 north. Again Illinois 394 southbound is forgotten on this sign bridge. Interstate 94 departs as Exit 160B based on the Interstate 80 numbering convention. Exit 160A is for Illinois 394 south. Photo taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (04/01).
A final view of the old configuration: Here, the two lanes to the right take Interstate 94 traffic north (west) toward the city of Chicago. Through traffic in the left lanes continue on as Interstate 80, as Interstate 294 also begins. Finally, the Illinois 394 signage shifts to the right. It now makes sense as to why those earlier signs were posted on the left - to assure traffic for Illinois 394 remained in the left two lanes prior to exiting at the cloverleaf interchange. This could have been better accomplished with the additional of an Illinois 394 shield to the Interstate 80 west/294 north guide signs. Illinois 394 is the "last exit before toll." Photos taken by Steve Hanudel (05/14/06) and Chris Patriarca (05/25/03).
Perspective from Interstate 80-294/Tri-State Tollway west
After traffic for Interstate 94/Bishop Ford Expressway north and Illinois 394/Bishop Ford Expressway south depart from Interstate 80/Kingery Expressway, northbound Interstate 294 begins. The Kingery Expressway ends as Interstate 80 west merges with Interstate 294 north on the Tri-State Tollway. Shortly thereafter, the Tri-State Tollway immediately crosses over a huge quarry prior to meeting Illinois 1 (Halsted Avenue); soon thereafter, the two routes prepare to split. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/14/06).
Westbound Interstate 80-294/Tri-State Tollway reaches its interchange with Illinois 1/Halsted Avenue. This is the only shared interchange on westbound (this is access to Dixie Highway for eastbound travelers). The next exit is the split between Interstate 80 and Interstate 294. Interstate 80 will continue west to Joliet and the Quad Cities, while Interstate 294 will travel north through the southwestern suburbs, western suburbs, past O'Hare International Airport, and then end at Interstate 94 near the Lake-Cook County Line. Photo taken by Patrick Lilja (08/07/07).
The first indication of the split is this overhead sign, with advises that through traffic on Interstate 294/Tri-State Tollway north to Wisconsin use the left lanes and all traffic connecting to Interstate 80 west use the right lanes. Compare the split in current conditions (2007) against the former lane allocation prior to completion of the reconstruction and expansion project. Photos taken by Patrick Lilja (08/07/07) and Steve Hanudel (05/14/06).
A second diagrammatical split sign is posted shortly thereafter, but it does not show the lane allocation. All traffic (for Interstate 294 north or Interstate 80 west) should prepare to pay a toll ahead. Photo taken by Patrick Lilja (08/07/07).
Interstate 80 and Interstate 294 split. Interstate 294 north travels along the western edge of the city of Chicago, linking several western suburbs before connecting to O'Hare International Airport and ending at Interstate 94 near the Lake County line. Interstate 294 has connections to Interstate 55/Stevenson Expressway, Interstate 88/East-West Tollway, Interstate 290/Eisenhower Expressway, Interstate 90-190/John F. Kennedy Expressway, and Interstate 90/Northwest Tollway. As for Interstate 80, it travels west to Joliet, then crosses the state toward the Quad Cities that Illinois shares with Iowa. Part of the 2007 photo is cut off. Photos taken by Patrick Lilja (08/07/07) and Steve Hanudel (05/14/06).
Perspective from Illinois 394/Bishop Ford (Calumet) Expressway north
Three miles from the northern terminus, Illinois 394 passes the Glenwood Dyer Road interchange. Pictured is the sign bridge at the exit with a three mile guide sign for the upcoming junction with Interstates 80/94 and the southern terminus of Interstate 294. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05).
In similar fashion, the two-mile guide sign for Interstates 80/94/294 on Illinois 394, located at the Glenwood-Lansing Road overpass. Photos taken by AARoads (09/03/05) and Brian Dowd (11/02).
Northbound Illinois 394/Calumet Expressway approaching Junction Interstates 80/94/294. Note the use of state-based control points on this sign bridge, located one mile south of Interstate 294's southern terminus. As late as 1989, the Illinois 394 freeway was concrete, but it was repaved in 1990 with asphalt. Unfortunately, the asphalt has not held up very well against Chicago's extreme climate. Now the area is being reconstructed (in 2005-2006) along with the interchange reconstruction. Photos taken by AARoads (09/03/05) and Brian Dowd (11/02).
Traffic departing on Interstate 80/94 eastbound leave Illinois 394 north first, one-quarter a mile from this overhead. The state line and city limits for Hammond, Indiana are just over two miles eastward from the upcoming interchange. Photos taken by AARoads (09/03/05) and Brian Dowd (06/02).
Interstate 80/94 depart eastward along the Kingery Expressway eastbound while the exit for Interstate 80 west/294 north is forthcoming. Traffic remaining on the Illinois 394 north mainline directly transitions onto Interstate 94 westbound to Dolton and Chicago. Photos taken by AARoads (09/03/05) and Brian Dowd (06/02).
Interstate 294 begins from Illinois 394 northbound in this photograph. The control points of Iowa refer to Interstate 80 and Wisconsin for Interstate 294. The Tri-State Tollway, that which Interstate 294 follows, begins at this interchange as well. Photos taken by Brian Dowd (06/02 and 11/02).
End Illinois 394 shield posted within the Interstate 80/94/294 interchange. With interchange reconstruction, this shield was gone as of August 2005 (probably temporarily). The state highway is the only x94 reamining, although Illinois 194, 594, and 694 were also displayed at various times during the 1960s and 1970s on Chicago maps. Illinois 194 was the former designation for the Kennedy Expressway (Interstate 90) and Northwest Tollway from Illinois 53 southeast to Interstate 94/Edens Expressway. Today's Interstate 190 was formerly Illinois 594, and the Illinois 694 designation was briefly assigned to Interstate 290/Eisenhower Expressway as the route of Interstate 90 was modified and finally solidified. There was no assigned Illinois 494, since Interstate 494 was planned for the U.S. 41/Lakeshore Drive freeway during the same time period. There are no current plans to build Interstate 494 either as part of Lake Shore Drive or as part of the often-proposed but never built Crosstown Expressway. Photos taken by Brian Dowd (06/02 and 11/02).
Traffic from northbound Illinois 394 merges onto westbound Interstate 94, which is signed as the Bishop Ford Freeway. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (11/02).
Perspective from Interstate 94/Bishop Ford (Calumet) Expressway east (south)
Now traveling east (south) on Interstate 94/Bishop Ford Freeway (former Calumet Expressway), the next exit is Exits 73A-B, Junction U.S. 6 (159th Street), one mile and approaching Exits 74A-B, Junction Interstate 80-294 and Illinois 394, two and a quarter miles. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (11/02).
Eastbound Interstate 94 reaches Exits 73A-B, Junction U.S. 6 (159th Street). The next interchange is for Exits 74A-B, Junction Interstate 80-294 and Illinois 394. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (11/02).
Interstate 94, which is signed east but is actually traveling due south at this point, draws near the Interstate 80/294/Illinois 394 interchange. Interstate 80 and 94 overlap from this junction eastward overlap for roughly 20 miles. Photos taken by Brian Dowd (06/02 and 11/02).
Eastbound Interstate 94 approaching Junction Illinois 394, one mile. The control city is Danville, even though that city is situated far south of the southern terminus of Illinois 394, at the intersection of Illinois 1 and Interstate 74 in downstate Illinois. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (11/02).
Exit 74B overhead for Interstate 80 east/Interstate 294/Tri-State Tollway north on Interstate 94 east. Lost in the shuffle is Illinois 394 south. A guide sign for the Bishop Form Memorial Expressway (Illinois 394/Calumet Expressway) is partially obscured in the background by vegetation in the summertime picture. Photos taken by Brian Dowd (06/02 and 11/02).
Weatherbeaten signs adorn this Interstate 94 eastbound sign bridge at the mainline split with the roadway for Interstate 80 east/Interstate 294 and Illinois 394. Note as was the case with Illinois 394 northbound and Interstate 80 westbound, state based control points are used. Photos taken by Brian Dowd (06/02 and 11/02).
The parting of ways for Interstate 80/94 east, Illinois 394 south, Interstates 80 east/294 north. The Bishop Ford Memorial Expressway continues another seven miles southward via Illinois 394. Photos taken by AARoads (09/03/05) and Brian Dowd (11/02).
Northern Terminus - Interstate 94 - Deerfield, Illinois
Perspective from Interstate 294/Tri-State Tollway north
Traveling north on Interstate 294/Tri-State Tollway, the final exit is with Lake-Cook Road. The exits are not numbered, which is typical for the Illinois Tollway System. After this exit ramp, northbound Interstate 294 ends and merges into Interstate 94 west (north) toward Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The next exit with Deerfield Road is accessible from Interstate 94 north. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/14/06).
A bit further north, this view shows the transition from northbound Interstate 294 onto westbound Interstate 94 along the Tri-State Tollway. This marks the northern terminus of Interstate 294 north of Chicago. Photo taken by Don Hargraves (6/02).
Perspective from Interstate 94/Tri-State Tollway east (south)
Now on southbound (eastbound) Interstate 94/Tri-State Tollway, the first signage for the split with Interstate 294 appears about six miles north of the split. Interstate 94 is signed as the tolled "Edens Spur" for its short east-west section between Interstate 294 and U.S. 41. The next two exits are Junction Illinois 60/Town Line Road and Junction Illinois 22/Half Day Road. Photo taken by AARoads (09/02/05).
Eastbound Interstate 94/Southbound Tri-State Tollway approaching Junction Interstate 294 Southbound, two miles. Photo taken by Don Hargraves (6/02).
Eastbound Interstate 94/Southbound Tri-State Tollway approaches the split with Interstate 294 southbound, one mile. Note the lack of exit numbers, which is common on the Illinois Tollway system. Photo taken by AARoads (09/02/05).
The left two lanes transition onto eastbound Interstate 94/Edens Spur, while the right three lanes connect to southbound Interstate 294/Tri-State Tollway. The tollway bypasses downtown Chicago and is the best route for through traffic, especially during commuting hours. Photo taken by AARoads (09/02/05).
Eastbound Interstate 94/Southbound Tri-State Tollway reaches Lake Cook Road. Immediately after this exit, Interstate 94 and Interstate 294 will split. Lake Cook Road marks the Cook-Lake County Line. Photo taken by AARoads (09/02/05).
Interstate 94/Edens Spur east and Interstate 294/Tri-State Tollway south split here. Photo taken by AARoads (09/02/05).
Perspective from Interstate 94/Edens Spur east
After splitting from Interstate 294 and the Tri-State Tollway, eastbound Interstate 94 travels on the tolled Edens Spur for a short distance, then meets U.S. 41. Interstate 94 then turns south along with U.S. 41 via the Edens Expressway toward Skokie and Chicago. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/14/06).
Perspective from Interstate 294/Tri-State Tollway south
This is the first shield found on southbound Interstate 294 along the Tri-State Tollway. Photo taken by AARoads (09/02/05).
Perspective from Interstate 94/Edens Spur west
After the Edens Spur toll plaza, westbound Interstate 94 approaches the Tri-State Tollway mainline. There are no signs for the pending junction with Interstate 294 because there is no connection from westbound Interstate 94 to southbound Interstate 294. Instead, the only signage is for the next exit, which is Deerfield Road. Note the substandard bridge height warning sign. Photo taken by AARoads (09/02/05).
Turning north, westbound Interstate 94 prepares to merge with the Tri-State Tollway mainline. The Deerfield Road offramp is located here, prior to the merge with Interstate 294, so that Interstate 94 can join the tollway from the left. In addition, this ramp serves as a truck bypass, which allows trucks to enter the freeway on the right rather than the left. Photo taken by AARoads (09/02/05).
Westbound Interstate 94/Tri-State Tollway reaches Deerfield Road. The left two lanes continue so that they can merge with Interstate 294. Photo taken by AARoads (09/02/05).
Interstate 94 and Interstate 294 merge. From these lanes, there is no access to the Deerfield Road exit. Photo taken by AARoads (09/02/05).
Interstate 294 comes to an end as Interstate 94 merges into the tollway from the left. Photo taken by AARoads (09/02/05).

Sources:

  1. "Tollway delays Tri-State widening until '05." Chicago Sun-Times, September 19, 2003.
  2. Encyclopedia of Chicago: Expressways by Dennis McClendon of the Chicago Historical Society
  3. Illinois Tollway - click on "South Tri-State Tollway (I-294) Rebuild & Widen."
  4. Encyclopedia of Chicago: Tollways by David M. Young of the Chicago Historical Society

Page Updated August 25, 2007.

 
Mileage

State Illinois
Mileage 53.42*
Cities Harvey, Westchester, Oak Lawn, Chicago
Junctions Interstate 80/Interstate 94, Interstate 80, Interstate 55, Interstate 88, Interstate 290, Interstate 190, Interstate 90, Interstate 94
Source: October 31, 2002 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
5.32 miles on I-80
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