CARBONDALE -- Lanes will be added to a five-mile congested stretch of Interstate 57 between Johnston City and West Frankfort in an effort to improve the flow of traffic and enhance driver safety.
The $7.6 million federal project will get underway next year, it was reported Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Mike Bost and the Illinois Department of Transportation.
"This grant is truly a win-win," said Bost. "It not only will improve safety along a dangerous stretch of highway between Marion and Mt. Vernon, but also has the potential to lead to economic development around Benton and other points in between."
Johnston City Mayor Jim Mitchell said the funding comes as no surprise.
"We've been waiting on this," he said. "We've been trying to get a truck stop here. That would make all the difference in the world."
Mitchell said that while he is pleased with the funding, it won't make much difference at all if the landowners won't sell.
"We've got an interested party for the truck stop," he said, "but we just can't get people to let loose of the land."
Mitchell said people think they will get a better price in the future but he doesn't agree.
"If you don't catch the trolley when it comes by, you're going to be walking."
Gov. Bruce Rauner said, "These improvements will have a huge impact on the safety, reliability and efficiency on a key segment of I-57. Working with our federal and local partners, we are making travel safer and creating economic development in Southern Illinois."
The funds will be used to add a new lane in each direction, resurface existing lanes and install new pavement markings, rumble strips, guardrails and median barriers to prevent crossover crashes.
The interstate is vital to the nation's freight network. About 39,300 vehicles travel I-57 through Williamson and Franklin counties each day, nearly a third of which is truck traffic. That number can surge to more than 65,000 vehicles a day during high-travel periods in the summer, causing traffic backups that spill onto surrounding local roads and creating gridlock throughout the region.
The grant is being funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program. The total estimated cost of construction is $12.7 million. Construction is to begin in Spring 2019 and end in late 2020.