Illinois Department of Transportation, Erica Borggren, Acting Secretary
Patrick J. Quinn, Governor
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Multi-Year Highway Program Development

Bringing a Project to Construction

The multi-year highway programs are public statements of the specific improvements IDOT intends to undertake on the state highway system over a period of five or three years. The complexity of the individual improvements will determine the amount of time a project remains "in the stream" from conceptualization to the beginning of construction. The sequence of events to bring a project to fruition can include:

  • Feasibility studies - investigations of the engineering and economic practicality of a proposed highway improvement
  • Location studies - analyses of alternative corridors to determine recommended alignment and major design features
  • Environmental studies - inventory and analysis of the impacts of a proposed highway on its environment - e.g., air, water, noise, ecology, visual features, historical sites, economic resources, land use, wetlands, etc.
  • Archaeological investigations - detailed investigations of locations where important archaeological sites have been discovered within the boundaries of a proposed highway
  • Public input and/or hearings - free and open discussions early in the location study to assure that any adverse effects relating to each of several alternatives are fully considered as a project develops
  • Construction plan preparation - detailed plans of a job site and specifications for materials and construction requirements which are used as the basis for competitive bidding by contractors
  • Land acquisition - negotiations with property owners, surveys, and preparation of legal documents involved in the purchase of land or access rights to land needed for a highway project
  • Utility adjustment - relocation of sewer, water, gas, electric, telephone, cable and other utility lines because of the highway construction
  • Advertising - making qualified contractors aware that bids are being accepted to supply materials and perform the work shown on the construction plans
  • Contract award - the process of receiving bids, analyzing bid amounts and awarding a contract to the lowest qualified bidder

Projects such as resurfacing or widening and resurfacing on the existing roadbed can normally move forward to construction within one year. A project like this usually requires a minimal amount of time for a location and environmental study before construction can begin.

Multi-Year Highway Program Development

Purchase of even a small amount of right of way may add several months to a project. If the project involves environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands, historic sites, or archaeological sites, considerable additional time is needed.

A major construction project on new location can take five to ten years to complete the feasibility, location, and environmental studies, conduct public hearings, and make soil and hazardous material surveys. Preparation of construction plans, purchase of right of way, and moving utilities such as power lines, water mains, etc., can take another one to two years before the project can be advertised and awarded for construction. Where the proposed highway location involves wetlands, public parks, or other unique environmentally sensitive areas, several years can be added to the process. Public opposition can defer construction for years or block the project altogether. IDOT will not undertake highway improvements unless there is a strong level of public support.

Even replacement of an existing deteriorated bridge can take one to three years to bring the project to a construction letting. Hydraulics of the stream or river, soil conditions, and impact on navigable streams have to be investigated. Where a proposed replacement bridge would disturb wildlife habitat or have an adverse impact on endangered species, additional time is required to develop a mitigation plan.

The published multi-year programs may be overprogrammed by about five percent to allow for unforeseen delay in bringing a project to a construction letting. As noted previously, a major project in the early feasibility or location study phase will require, under ideal conditions, many years to prepare. If delays occur, other projects that are ready to proceed to a letting can then be advertised for construction.

The multi-year improvement programs must also provide some flexibility to accommodate changes in program emphasis. If major construction projects are deferred and resurfacing projects advanced, construction plans for resurfacing could be prepared within a year. However, if resurfacing or bridge repair projects are deferred and a major construction project advanced, the time required from when the major construction project is added to the multi-year program and to when actual construction can begin takes five to ten years. Therefore, while there is some latitude to change the emphasis of the multi-year programs, the lead time to develop a major construction project to the letting stage is an important consideration.

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