It has been on the Illinois Department of Transportation’s to-do list for years.
It has been in Phase 1 engineering with IDOT for perhaps 10 years.
It has been the subject of on-again, off-again discussions among Kankakee and Kankakee County leadership for at least the past decade.
Yet the Interstate 57 interchange at East Court Street on Kankakee’s east side remains virtually unchanged in these years, except for some occasional repaving work.
Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong and city engineer Neil Piggush are trying to get that changed and the pair is hoping that perhaps 2021 will be the year that this project can finally begin to move at a pace somewhat faster than a horse and buggy. Piggush noted the mayor has been constantly pushing IDOT on this project.
At last week’s Kankakee City Council meeting, Piggush, while discussing gateway improvements set to take place near the interchange — which will include the closing the 100 block of Hammes Avenue at East Court Street — said he is hopeful IDOT will host public input forums yet this year.
Piggush is hopeful Phase 1 engineering may be completed by early to mid-2021.
Once that portion is completed, Phase 2 engineering would follow. Phase 1 of an IDOT study focuses on engineering and environmental studies. Phase 2 focuses on more detailed plans and specifications. Phase 3 focuses on funding. A cost estimate has not been made public.
Because the interchange is bounded by Mount Calvary Cemetery and an apartment high rise on its southern edge, and commercial development on the northern side, redevelopment plans are a little more complicated.
Preliminary plans, Piggush said, call for the interchange to be compact, called a single point urban interchange.
“This is a very complicated project. There is definitely space concerns,” Piggush noted. But, he said, the new interchange is critical to development on the city’s east side. He noted trucks at times have difficulty negotiating the interchange. With the Ricky Rockets Fuel Center moving toward construction, truckers will only be using the interchange more frequently.
“This is critical for the city, economic development and the future growth on the east side,” he said. “This is an important project for the success of the city and the east side.”
Tim Nugent, president and CEO of the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County, said the project is important simply because it is the first impression gained by those entering the city.
“It’s always been an odd entrance. To have that upgraded would be a big boost, both aesthetically and transportation-wise,” he said. “It’s certainly time for the east side of Kankakee to get some attention.”
Lisa Wogan, the vice president of marketing and business attraction for the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County, will soon be leaving the organization and the community.
It was announced at the alliance’s Zoom meeting on Thursday that Wogan’s resignation had been accepted. Tim Nugent, the organization’s president and CEO, said he tried to talk her out of the decision.
“I’m not happy about it,” he said of the person who has been like his right hand since stepping into the position May 2016. “I tried to convince her otherwise.”
Wogan, 50, of Momence, who was earning $67,000, simply felt the time was right to make the move. Wogan came to the area in 1999 from Lombard. She has been with the alliance since 2008, except for about an 18-month period in late 2012 to spring 2014.
She worked on a contractual basis for the alliance from 2008 through 2012. She was hired as a full-time employee in May 2014 and was appointed its director of marketing and business attraction in December 2015. In January 2019 her title was elevated to vice president of marketing and business attraction.
Wogan said if her replacement is found within the coming weeks, she will assist the new person in learning the job functions as well as the communities and organizations as well as key individuals within the county.
Nugent said the alliance is already advertising for her replacement. He did not list a salary, noting it will depend on what level of experience and qualifications the candidate brings forth. Nugent hopes to be interviewing candidates by the first week or so of October and have someone hired by mid-October.
“I’ve very much enjoyed working in this community,” Wogan said shortly after Thursday’s meeting. “This is a great community. This is very difficult for me. This community is a very special place for me.”
What she will be doing once she exits from the alliance, she doesn’t exactly know just yet. She said she will be relocating to the urban/metro core and will see what presents itself. She noted she grew up in the Waukegan area.
Whatever she may eventually do, she said, it will have something to do with promoting economic development. She noted this profession is now in her blood.
“It’s time to see what my next step will be. The time is right to take the next step,” she said.
Lisa has three sons, ages 23, 20 and 18.
On a personal note, I will miss Lisa. She is a true first-class professional who routinely went above and beyond in an effort to meet the needs of others. I wish Lisa nothing but the best as she enters the “next phase” of her life.