Interstate 294 Illinois
The Tri-State Tollway, Interstate 294 between Lansing and Deerfield, was designed initially as a bypass route around Chicago through suburban areas of Cook and DuPage Counties. However, I-294 became as important as any of the intercity expressways, as it connects the suburbs with O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and the rapidly expanded residential and business demands of the region. Avoiding much of the city, the Tri-State Tollway is a heavily traveled route with six to eight lanes for the majority of its length.
The Central Tri-State Tollway (I-294) Project reconstructs and expands a 22 mile section of the toll road between Balmoral Avenue and 95th Avenue. Costing $4 billion, construction got underway in 2018 and extends through 2026. Work is partitioned into three sections:
Southern Section – I-55 to 95th Street
Started in 2019 and running through the end of 2023, construction expands I-294 to five lanes in each direction between I-55 and 95th Street. Work also reconstructs shoulders to accommodate Flex Lanes and rebuilds the Mile Long Bridge spanning the distribution center for UPS and BNSF Railway. An additional interchange joins the toll road with 88th/Cork Avenue at the Village of Justice. Improvements will also be made along the ramp linking I-55 to I-294 north, at overpasses for Willow Springs Road and 5th Avenue and at the Archer Avenue Interchange.
Central Section – St. Charles Road to I-55
Construction underway through 2026 rebuilds the Tri-State Tollway mainline. Work in 2022 removed the Hinsdale Oasis over-the-road pavilion to accommodate roadway expansion. The fuel stations and parking lots were retained. Major work started in 2020 reconfigures the I-290/I-88 Interchange at I-294. The BNSF Railroad span over I-294 was reconstructed and lengthened in 2022.
Additional improvements are made at the overpasses for St. Charles Road, Cermak Road, 31st Street, 47th Street, 55th Street, Plainfield Road and St. Charles Road over Interstate 290. Work also reconfigures the ramps along the east side of I-294 at the Ogden Avenue Interchange. Construction through the end of 2022 replaces the pedestrian bridge between the BSNF Railroad and Ogden Avenue with a new crossing adjacent to 47th Street.
Northern Section – Balmoral Avenue to St. Charles Road
Started in June 2018, work through the end of 2024 expands the Tri-State Tollway between Balmoral Avenue and North Avenue and reconstructs the shoulders to accommodate Flex Lanes. The O’Hare Oasis over-the-road pavilion was removed in 2019 to accommodate roadway expansion. The fuel stations and parking lots at the oasis however were retained.
Improvements are also being made to ramps connecting the O’Hare Oasis and Irving Park Road to Interstate 294, in addition to those as part of the North Avenue Interchange Project. Construction on the Northern Section also includes the I-490/I-294 Interchange supporting the new I-490 Tollway Project. Overpasses for Balmoral Road an Wolf Road are also reconstructed.
Source: December 31, 2021 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
* – 5.32 miles on I-80
The Tri-State Tollway, which carries Interstate 294 from Lansing northwest to Deerfield, was constructed starting in 1956 and was completed by 1958.2 Construction of the 83 mile long 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.
Interstate 294 previously continue east from its present end at I-94/IL 394 into Northwest Indiana. The original Chicago Interstate system outlined Interstate 90 following the Calumet (Bishop Ford) expressway south to I-80 (Kingery Expressway) near Lansing. Interstate 94 was planned to follow the Chicago Skyway and Indiana Toll Road through Gary. I-294 combined with I-80/90 east to Hobart and the Indiana Toll Road where I-94 and I-80/90 switched places. A grand renumbering took place in 1963, with I-90 relocated onto the Chicago Skyway and Indiana Toll Road, I-94 moved southward onto the Borman and Kingery Expressways, and north along the Calumet Expressway into Chicago, and I-294 retracted to the end of the Tri-State Tollway at IL 394/I-94.
A $238 million expansion project widened the tollway to eight overall lanes. The expansion of Interstate 294 from IL 394 north to the 163rd Street Toll Plaza was delayed several times; with an announcement by the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority on September 18, 2003, that construction 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 (IDOT) postponement of the companion “Kingery Expressway: On the Move to Improve” widening project on Interstate 80 near the Indiana state line.1 The first phase of widening I-294 from the interchange with IL 394 south and I-94 north to 167th Street began in January 2005 and was completed in Fall 2006. The second phase, which included expanding the Tri-State Tollway between U.S. 6 (159th Street) and U.S. 12-20 (95th Street), began in 2007.3
North End – Deerfield, Illinois
North End Throwback
South End – Lansing, Illinois
East South at
South End Throwback
East South at
- “Tollway delays Tri-State widening until ’05.” Chicago Sun-Times, September 19, 2003.
- Encyclopedia of Chicago: Expressways by Dennis McClendon of the Chicago Historical Society.
- “South Tri-State Tollway (I-294) Rebuild & Widen.” – Illinois Tollway web site.
- Encyclopedia of Chicago: Tollways by David M. Young of the Chicago Historical Society.
Page updated June 28, 2022.