Peoria-to-Chicago Highway

The Peoria-to-Chicago Highway refers to an effort made in the U.S. state of Illinois in the late 1990s to directly connect the cities of Peoria and Chicago with a multilane freeway. Plans for any highway failed due to grass-roots efforts against the highway.

The Illinois interstate highway plan in the mid-1950s included a freeway from Peoria toward Chicago in the I-180 corridor. This was not approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), but the state made provisions for the highway in Peoria (“ghost ramps” from IL 6 at the IL 29 interchange, and an I-180 stub at its IL 29 interchange).

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Illinois adopted a supplemental freeway plan with the goal of providing any state resident a trip of 30 minutes or less to reach a “convenient highway” reaching any city of 25,000 or more. The I-180 to Peoria extension was part of this plan, but very few of these freeways were actually built.

In the 1970s, Illinois proposed a similar route incorporating the future I-155 and I-180 as Interstate 53; the number was approved by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), but the route was declined by the FHWA.

In the mid-1990s, the state revived the proposal, calling it the “Heart of Illinois Freeway.” A few alternatives were selected, among them the IL 6 to I-180 connection. In late 2000, the state decided to proceed with the 6/180 connection, but ran into opposition from farmers and withdrawn support from area Congressman Ray LaHood (R-Peoria), who favored four-laning the IL 29. A Peoria city council vote to encourage the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to continue study on the freeway failed, highlighting the proposal’s loss of momentum

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. In February 2002, IDOT stated there was no traffic need for the freeway, only political and economic reasons for advocating it; and that they only studied the issue because Peoria asked for it.

There are five existing major routes from Chicago to Peoria; the four shortest require Peoria-to-Chicago traffic to divert from major interstates, and the fifth all-interstate option adds approximately 40 miles (64 km) to a 180-mile (290 km) trip.

This option utilizes Interstate 55, Interstate 80, and Interstate 180 to approach Peoria from the north. I-180 ends at Illinois Route 29, and the corridor south of this point is considered a prime candidate for conversion to a four-lane expressway. The highway would then connect to an extended Illinois Route 6 freeway in Chillicothe.

This was the original route planned for in the late 1970s. The highway would have run through a handful of small towns on the Illinois River, however, and environmental impacts (state and federal) raised concerns about an Interstate route along this section of the Illinois River valley.

If this route is ever built, it could become part of the proposed Chicago–Kansas City Expressway, connecting to the planned Fulton County section of Illinois Route 336, and the Interstate 72/U.S 36 corridor across Missouri.

This option utilizes Interstate 55 to Illinois Route 116, and entering Peoria from the northeast. Illinois 116 would have been upgraded to a four-lane freeway through Benson, Roanoke, and Metamora west of Interstate 39, and eastward through to Interstate 55. This alignment would have displaced hundreds of acres of prime farmland. Illinois 116 is already a four-lane divided highway west of Metamora, but a bypass around all three cities would have been required.

Similar to the Illinois 116 option, U.S. Route 24 is already a four-lane divided highway from Peoria to Washington. It would have required a bypass around Eureka, however, and displaced acres of prime farmland running pouch.

Both US 24 and Illinois 116 already carry an elevated amount of traffic between Peoria and Chicago. Both roads are two-lane, 55-mile-per-hour (90 km/h) roads, and high-speed head-on crashes are a growing danger in the area.

Interstate 39 could have formed a leg from Interstate 80 to either Illinois 116 and US 24. At this point, however, the number of miles saved does not justify the project.

The current all-Interstate method of traveling from Chicago to Peoria is by taking Interstate 55 to Interstate 74.

Strong opposition from not only local organizations but IDOT itself cancelled the project, despite the fact that the project had gone through the initial investigation, and an alignment had been determined. As a result, the Peoria-to-Chicago Highway remains deferred until the cost of any of the above alternatives can justify the need for a direct connection.

In a joint resolution between the Illinois House and Senate in late May 2010, an expressway project connecting Chicago-to-Kansas City will be named Illinois Route 110. The path, 532 miles (856 km) in total, follows parts of the existing Illinois Route 336, Interstate 88, Interstate 172, Interstate 72, Interstate 74, U.S. Route 136, U.S. Route 67, and connect the cities of Quincy, Macomb, Galesburg, a number of communities of the Chicago metropolitan area, including Chicago itself on Interstate 290.

Hence, in 2010, Peoria has been by-passed by Illinois Route 110.

Illinois Route 110 project from Chicago to Kansas City. Illinois Route 336 project from Peoria to Macomb. Illinois Route 29 project from Peoria to Princeton. Eastern bypass project.