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Illinois Tollway close to resolving conflict with Canadian railway over O'Hare western access

Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, June 12, 2018  |  Article  |  Mary Wisniewski

Tollways (91b)

The Illinois Tollway appears to be close to a deal with a Canadian railway to allow highway ramps over train tracks just west of O’Hare, which would make possible long-anticipated western highway access to the airport, according to a notice on the toll authority’s website.

A special Tollway board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon to approve a “letter of intent” with Canadian Pacific Railway, the notice said.


The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority has been in talks with the railway over allowing the toll authority to build ramps over Canadian Pacific tracks in Bensenville. The Tollway sued the railroad in November 2016, asking the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to allow the toll authority to proceed with its plans.


The ramps would be part of a planned beltway around O'Hare. When it is complete, Interstate 390 east toward the airport would connect with a new north-south tollway to be called Interstate 490, which would stretch along the airport's western border. The new tollway would connect with Interstate 90 to the north and the Tri-State Tollway to the south.


Map: Elgin-O'Hare Western Access

Tribune Graphics

The toll authority has argued that western highway access is crucial to an expanded O'Hare airport, and that shutting down the project would cost thousands of jobs. The railway has argued in the past that the Tollway’s plan would interfere with its freight rail operations.


Details of the letter of intent were not available. Spokesmen for the Tollway and Canadian Pacific declined comment.


A proposed western access highway to O'Hare has been discussed for two decades, and the Illinois Department of Transportation began talking with Canadian Pacific in 2008 to review ways to cross its Bensenville rail yard, according to the toll authority.


The Tollway had already planned to spend $375.9 million this year on work for the western access project.


Crain’s Chicago Business first reported this news.