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Interstate 355 Illinois

 

For a short distance, southbound Interstate 355/North-South Tollway turns west to parallel Interstate 88 near Downers Grove. This view is from southbound Interstate 355; Interstate 88 comes into view toward the left. While the two routes parallel each other, they do not merge together. Interstate 355 turns south again near Lisle. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05).

Routing

Interstate 355 in Illinois is the Veterans Memorial (North-South) Tollway. The freeway is part of the Illinois Tollway System and connects Interstate 80 in New Lenox with Interstate 290 in Addison, meeting its parent Interstate 55 in Bolingbrook and crossing Interstate 88/Ronald Reagan Memorial (East-West) Tollway near Downers Grove.

History

Interstate 355 was commissioned between Interstate 55 and Interstate 290 with the completion of the North-South Tollway on December 24, 1989.3 The $450-million project was toll-free until December 26, 1989, when tolls of $1.00 went into effect. Legislature authorized the toll road in 1984 and constructed commented in October 1986.7 The newest section, from Interstate 80 north to Interstate 55, opened on November 12, 2007, at a cost of $730 million.5 AASHTO approved the already-opened extension of Interstate 355 on May 6, 2008. Starting at Interstate 290 in the western suburbs of Chicago, it connected a previously constructed section of the Illinois 53 expressway between Interstate 290 and Army Trail Road with a the then-new North-South Tollway. Interstate 355 follows the tollway south to intersect Interstate 88 (East-West Tollway) then ends at Interstate 55.

Interstate 455

The 1988 official Illinois Tollway map shows the then-proposed North-South Tollway with an Interstate 455 marker, but the following year, the Interstate 355 marker was in place. This information was conveyed to mapmakers in 1988, and as a result, Interstate 455 appeared in a few commercial maps of the same vintage. We have a scan of the under-construction Interstate 455 corridor from a General Drafting Company (Travelvision) map of Chicago from 1988. As near as we can tell, Interstate 455 was never signed - it was always Interstate 355 once the tollway opened in 1989.

Future Aspirations

Construction recently finished on the 12.5-mile extension of Interstate 355/North-South Tollway from Interstate 55 south to Interstate 80.1, 4 The Chicago inset of the 2006 Rand McNally Road Atlas shows the dashed green lines for a tollway under construction; the 2008 atlas shows the tollway as complete. The tollway has three lanes in each direction, with interchanges at Interstate 80, U.S. 6, 159th Street, 143rd Street, 127th Street, and Interstate 55 at the north end. The tollway is expected to be completed and open to traffic on November 12, 2007. Groundbreaking for the project was in November 2004, and a walk on the freeway was on November 11, 2007 (Veterans Day).2, 5

Design and construction had been delayed by environmental and other concerns; however, the section of Interstate 355 between Interstate 55 and Interstate 80 was cleared for construction in 2002. Even so, the Interstate 355 extension was listed by the Sierra Club in 2002 as a route that should not be constructed, so opposition to this road remained high.

South to Interstate 57 and Illiana Expressway

A further extension of Interstate 355 south to Interstate 57 is still proposed. Such an extension could potentially connect to the long-proposed Illiana Expressway, which would travel east through Will County to Interstate 65 in Indiana. Neither the extension to Interstate 57 nor the link to the Illiana Expressway is currently projected for construction in the near-term, but both routes have been proposed if not studied to some extent. If an airport is constructed in Peotone as was once proposed, then an extension of Interstate 355 would be even more likely. Another consideration would be related to whether the Illiana Expressway is built to relieve the burdened Borman Expressway and Kingery Expressway corridor (Interstate 80-94-294).

Brad Smetanko sheds some light on the proposed southerly extension of Interstate 355 in an email dated November 28, 2002:

    [According to the Will County] 2020 Transportation Plan, the county seems to feel that its residents are ardent supporters of the [recent extension of Interstate 355 south to Interstate 80]. Will County was one of the fastest growing in the state between 1990 and 2000, and the Census Bureau estimated almost 6% growth (to over half a million people) in the just the first fifteen months following Census 2000.

    Also, as for a further extension, Will County at least seems to favor a western and southern bypass of New Lenox. That would mean travelers on future southbound Interstate 355 would have to merge onto westbound Interstate 80 for about a mile before continuing south [toward Interstate 57]. You can see their corridor, which extends across Interstate 57 to the Indiana border, at the above Transportation Plan link. From firsthand experience trying to navigate the county even two years ago at rush hour, all of the above extensions would be put to good use.

    These future plans depend heavily on the South Suburban Airport planned for Peotone. With Mayor Richard Daley in Chicago pushing for O'Hare Airport expansion, things are really up in the air, pun intended. While the O'Hare project isn't a done deal, some land acquisition has started, but the same is true of the Peotone Airport. Governor Ryan was a big supporter of the Peotone project (he hailed from Kankakee County, immediately to the south of Peotone), but I think Governor-elect Blagojevich will be more inclined to go along with Mayor Daley.

    In short, don't look for any earth-movers in the next five years [not until well after 2007], either on Interstate 355 south of Interstate 80 nor on a South Suburban Airport. But plans are in the works, and if the growth continues, something will have to be done eventually. Plus, airport construction would make the highway a virtual certainty, at least in some form.

On September 30, 2004, the board of trustees for the Illinois Tollway approved a $5.3 billion construction plan, which included multiple tollway improvements along with the Interstate 355 extension southeast to Interstate 80. This plan is detailed at the Illinois Tollway Official Webpage, under the link to the Fiscal Year 2005 Budget approval on October 28, 2004. The following is a synopsis of some of what is included in the spending plan (thanks to Kevin Wheeler):

  • Widening, resurfacing and/or reconstruction of 90+% of the tollway system.
  • Converting the current toll system to "open road tolling" where I-PASS users would be able to pass through all toll plazas at posted highway speed, while cash paying customers are routed off the road. Tolls were doubled to $0.80 for cash paying customers and were raised to $3-$4 for trucks. I-PASS users a guaranteed a rate freeze for 10 years.
  • Construction of the "next" leg of Interstate 355 from its terminus at Interstate 55 in Bolingbrook, to Interstate 80 near New Lenox. Ultimately plans call for Interstate 355 to extend to Interstate 57 near Peotone, where it would connect to another road to be built by the Indiana Department of Transportation (the "Illiana Expressway"). Construction of Interstate 355 is expected to began around Thanksgiving 2004, and was completed in November 2007.

For an article associated with this project, visit Chicago Sun-Times: "$5 billion for tollways gives I-355 green light" (10/01/04).

North to Interstate 94 (Future Interstate 594?)

Much of the right of way for the Illinois 53 tollway extension from Palatine north to Interstate 94/Tri-State Tollway has already been acquired. Environmental work still needs to be completed, so construction is not imminent (as of November 2007).6 If a new tollway is built along the Illinois 53 corridor as Interstate 594 north of Schaumburg, then the route of Illinois 53 may carry as many as three different Interstate designations: 355, 290, and 594. It is possible that if Illinois 53 tollway is built, then the whole corridor would be unified under one numerical designation.

Significant sections of Interstate 355 follow a major Commonwealth Edison (Exelon) power line corridor in west suburban Chicago. These massive towers support 345kV and 138kV lines along the west side of Interstate 355 as the tollway travels north. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (05/27/08).

Southern Terminus - Interstate 80 - New Lenox, Illinois
Perspective from Interstate 355 south
This series of pictures shows Interstate 355 southbound approaching the Interstate 80 interchange before the Veterans Memorial (North-South) Tollway opened to traffic on November 12, 2007. Here, southbound Interstate 355 approaches its final two interchanges: Junction U.S. 6/Southwest Highway, followed by Junction Interstate 80. Photo taken by Bill Burmaster (10/13/07).
Southbound Interstate 355/Veterans Memorial (North-South) Tollway meets U.S. 6/Southwest Highway at this interchange. To the east, U.S. 6 will pass through Marley, then enter Cook County. After turning north on Wolf Road, U.S. 6 bumps into Illinois 7, then continues east on 159th Street through Orland Park, Tinley Park, Oak Forest, Harvey, and South Holland before intersecting with Interstate 94/Bishop Ford Freeway (Calumet Expressway). To the west, U.S. 6 travels into downtown Joliet. Photo taken by Bill Burmaster (10/13/07).
The left lane will connect to Interstate 80 east to Tinley Park, Landing, and Gary, Indiana. The right lane connects to Interstate 80 west to Joliet and the Quad Cities. Photo taken by Bill Burmaster (10/13/07).
These Commonwealth Edison power lines had to be relocated in order to make room for the Interstate 80/Interstate 355 interchange in New Lenox. Photo taken by Bill Burmaster (10/13/07).
Southbound Interstate 355 comes to an end as the tollway splits. The left two lanes connect to Interstate 80 east to Indiana, and the remaining right lanes connect to Interstate 80 west to Joliet. Although there were provisions in the design of this interchange to allow for the freeway to be extended further southeast from here, such an extension is not in the planning stages. The project manager indicated to Bill Burmaster that the interchange at Interstate 80 was designed to allow for Interstate 355 to head south past Interstate 80, but was changed this past July. The original design had the main line lanes heading through the middle of the interchange. That is why the median widens as it approches Interstate 80. But the tollway says this will never happen. (The connection to the Illiana Expressway may require a connection via Interstate 80, if the expressway is ever built this far west.) Photo taken by Bill Burmaster (10/13/07).
An Interstate 355 ends sign was posted after the tollway opened on the sign bridge for the Interstate 80 interchange. Photos taken by Bill Burmaster (11/13/07) and Jeff Royston (11/19/07).
Perspective from Interstate 80 east
Perspective from Interstate 80 west
Perspective from Interstate 355 north
Now traveling north on Interstate 355/North-South (Veterans Memorial) Tollway, an Interstate 355 Begins sign is posted on the left side of the freeway. Major power lines cross over the Interstate 80/Interstate 355 interchange, and they were realigned as a result of the interchange construction. Photos taken by Bill Burmaster (11/13/07).
Former Southern Terminus - Interstate 55 - Bolingbrook, Illinois
Perspective from Interstate 355 south
The first advance signage indicating the current southern terminus of Interstate 355 at Interstate 55 appears at the 75th Street interchange. The penultimate exit is Boughton Road. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05).
Now at the Boughton Road interchange, southbound Interstate 355 approaches the junction with Interstate 55. Use Interstate 55 northeast to downtown Chicago and southwest to Joliet and Springfield as well as St. Louis. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05).
For Joliet Road, which carries Historic U.S. 66 southwest through Bolingbrook to Illinois 53, use Interstate 55 south. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05).
Before reconstruction of this interchange, this picture shows how southbound Interstate 355 used to split as it approached Interstate 55. See the next photobox for the new sign, which includes the additional lane. This construction is related to the new connection for the continuation of Interstate 355 south into Will County. Photo taken by Jeff Royston (1/02).
This diagrammatical sign along southbound Interstate 355 provides the lane allocation for Interstate 55 north and south. This sign is a replacement of the previous sign shown in the last photobox. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05).
The left two lanes connect to north Interstate 55, while the right two lanes connect to southbound Interstate 55. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05).
Now on the transition ramp from southbound Interstate 355 to northbound Interstate 55, this sign thanks motorists for using the Illinois Tollway. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05).
The END Interstate 355 guide sign is now gone, since the extension of Interstate 355 has been completed. The pillars for the southern extension are visible in the background. Note the Interstate 55 north reassurance shield found after the end sign. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05) and Jeff Royston (1/02).
Perspective from Interstate 55 north
The first announcement of Interstate 355 via Interstate 55 north occurs on this mileage sign seven miles south of the terminus. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (08/16/02).
Interstate 55 northbound at Exit 267/Illinois 53. The state highway parallels all of Interstate 355, eventually tying into Interstate 290 near the northern terminus. This is the first guide sign for Exit 269/Interstate 355 from northbound Interstate 55. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (06/02).
Northbound Interstate 55 approaching Junction Interstate 355, the North-South Tollway (one-mile). Photo taken by Brian Dowd (08/16/02).
One-quarter mile guide sign on Interstate 55 north for Interstate 355/Exit 269. The North-South Tollway serves the Western Suburbs of Addison, Downers Grove, Glen Ellyn, Glendale Heights, Lombard, and Woodridge. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (08/16/02).
Northbound on Interstate 55 at the ramp to Interstate 355 north. The city limits of Chicago are approximately 14 miles from this junction. Photo taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (4/01).
Closer look at the overhand panels along Interstate 55 north as the freeway approaches Interstate 355, the North-South Tollway (exit onto collector-distributor lanes). Photo taken by Brian Dowd (06/02).
Sign bridge on the northbound Interstate 55 c/d lane for Interstate 355's exit. Photo taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (4/01).
Northbound Interstate 55 approaching Junction Interstate 355. Traffic may opt to follow the ramp to northbound Interstate 355 or return to Interstate 55 northbound. In the future, this collector-distributor ramp will be expanded to incorporate ramps to southbound Interstate 355. These collector-distributor lanes also serve traffic entering from Joliet Road (Historic U.S. 66), and traffic from Joliet Road usually crosses the traffic going from northbound Interstate 55 to northbound Interstate 355 to get from Joliet Road to northbound Interstate 55. The same happens going on southbound Interstate 55, but traffic wishing to go on northbound Interstate 355 or Joliet Rd exit together, and traffic from southbound Interstate 355 going to southbound Interstate 55 is often crossing traffic exiting from southbound Interstate 55 to Joliet Road. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (06/02).
A ghost bridge support at the future interchange of Interstate 55/355. This bridge support would accommodate an extension of Interstate 355 south of Interstate 55 (see below for more information). Photo taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (4/01).
Northbound Interstate 55 at Interstate 355 northbound ramp to the North-South Tollway along the collector-distributor lanes. Next exit for Interstate 55 traffic is for Lemont Road (Exits 271A/B). Photo taken by Brian Dowd (08/16/02).
Northern Terminus - Interstate 290 - Itasca, Illinois
Perspective from Interstate 355 north
Nearing the northern terminus, Interstate 355 sees a lane partitioning for Interstate 290. The upcoming junction is seven miles south of the Northwest Tollway (Interstate 90)). Photo taken by Jim Teresco (07/01).
A pair of sign bridges are posted for Interstate 290, the Eisenhower Expressway extension, at the north end of Interstate 355. The northbound control point features Rockford (via Interstate 90), 55 miles to the north. Interstate 290 eastbound turns southeast of Interstate 355, traveling through the suburbs of Addison and Elmhurst before encountering the East-West Tollway (Interstate 88) and Tri-State Tollway (Interstate 294). Photos taken by Brian Dowd (06/02).
Perspective from Interstate 290 east
The first appearance of Interstate 355/North-South Tollway on westbound Interstate 290 is at this sign assembly near the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway (EOE) junction (Exit 5). The split with Interstate 355 is at Exit 7. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05).
Eastbound Interstate 290 reaches Exit 5, Elgin-O'Hare Expressway. The next exit is Exit 7, Junction Interstate 355/North-South Tollway south to Bolingbrook and Joliet. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05).
Interstate 355/North-South Tollway travels through or near the western suburbs of Addison, Glendale Heights, Lombard, Glen Ellyn, Downers Grove, Lisle, Woodridge, and Bolingbrook. The extension of Interstate 355 (under construction as of 2006 south to Interstate 80) will connect Interstate 355 to Lemont, Lockport, and New Lenox as well as eastern Joliet. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05).
The left three lanes connect to southbound Interstate 355/North-South Tollway, while the right two lanes continue east along Interstate 290. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05).
Given the fact that the left three lanes all transition onto southbound Interstate 355/North-South Tollway seems to show that the north-south corridor of Illinois 53, Interstate 290, and Interstate 355 could be unified under a common designation in the future, especially if the northern extension of Illinois 53 to Interstate 94/Tri-State Tollway is constructed. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05).
Southbound Interstate 355/North-South Tollway and eastbound Interstate 290 split at this interchange. Use Interstate 355 south to Army Trail Road, which for years served as a stub end until Interstate 355 was opened south to Interstate 55 in 1989. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05).
Perspective from Interstate 290 west
In the midst of the Illinois 83 interchange (Exits 10A-B along Interstate 290) the 3.5-mile advance guide sign appears. The signs for Interstate 355 on Interstate 290 westbound also give note of Interstate 355's first exit for U.S. Route 20/Lake Street in Itasca. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05).
As Interstate 290 draws closer to the North-South Tollway these guide signs greet drivers. The interchange of Interstate 290 and Interstate 355 is your typical T interchange, although Interstate 355 North of the interchange and Interstate 290 South of the interchange get the "through" treatment. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05).
Lane partitioning guide signs on Interstate 290 westbound for Exit 7/Interstate 355 southbound and the associated U.S. 20/Lake Street ramp. The southbound control city features Joliet, a suburb near the junctions of Interstate 55 and 80. Interstate 355 actually does not travel to this city, although proposals may extend Interstate 355 to Joliet in the future. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (11/28/02).
Interstate 355 southbound traffic departs Interstate 290 westbound in this photograph. Ahead three lanes from Interstate 355 northbound will merge onto the two northbound lanes of Interstate 290. Just a couple miles north of there the left lane will end, leaving Interstate 290 northbound with four travel lanes. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (11/28/02).
View of the signs on the ramp from Interstate 290 Westbound to Interstate 355 Northbound. Since the exit for U.S. Route 20/Lake St. is just around the bend, traffic is alerted to be in the right "EXIT ONLY" lane. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (11/28/02).
Perspective from Interstate 355 south
The first exit along southbound Interstate 355 is the junction with U.S. 20/Lake Street, followed by Army Trail Road. The North-South Tollway does not begin until after Army Trail Road, so the first two exits on southbound Interstate 355 can be accessed free of charge. The ramps overhead carry Interstate 290 southeast and then east toward downtown Chicago. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05).
Southbound Interstate 355 meets Army Trail Road at this interchange. The North-South Tollway begins here, and signage for the first toll plaza appears in the distance. Note the control cities of Joliet and St. Louis, both of which may reached via southbound Interstate 55. Photo taken by AARoads (09/03/05).
Maps
Interstate 455 - TravelVision Map of Chicago (General Drafting Company) - 1988
The 1988 TravelVision Map of Chicago by the now-defunct General Drafting Company shows Interstate 355 signed as Interstate 455. This is based on information from the 1988 Illinois Tollway Official Map. By 1989, Interstate 455 was correctly portrayed as Interstate 355 on the official tollway map. Map scan from General Drafting Company (1988 edition).

Sources:

  1. Work under way on 355 South Extension in Illinois - Tollroads News, 4/1/05.
  2. Dan Hobson, personal email ("New toll rates on IL Tollways"), Saturday, May 14, 2005.
  3. Encyclopedia of Chicago: Expressways by Dennis McClendon of the Chicago Historical Society.
  4. Encyclopedia of Chicago: Tollways by David M. Young of the Chicago Historical Society.
  5. New superhighway opening soon in Will - Chicago Tribune, October 21, 2007.
  6. Re: I-355 North-South Tollway Extension Opening Soon, posted on misc.transport.road newsgroup, by Rick Powell, October 21, 2007.
  7. "Opening of I-355 will put some zip in Du Page traffic." Chicago Sun-Times, December 22, 1989.

Page Updated July 29, 2008.

 
Mileage

State Illinois
Mileage 32.51 (new section: 12.50 miles; originally 20.01 miles)
Cities Chicago, New Lenox, Bolingbrook, Downers Grove, Glen Ellyn, Lombard
Junctions Interstate 80, Interstate 55, Interstate 88, Interstate 290
Source: October 31, 2002 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
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