CHICAGO (STMW) — The Circle Interchange, constructed between 1958 and 1962 to link the Kennedy, Dan Ryan and Eisenhower expressways, has, according to federal and state officials, outlived its original design life.

The Federal Highway Administration and American Transportation Research Institute, according to Gov. Pat Quinn’s office, have identified the downtown interchange as the No. 1 bottleneck among highways crucial to the nation’s freight transport system.

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To reduce congestion, construction was launched Wednesday on a four-year, $475 million construction project, which Quinn’s office says will create thousands of jobs.

The project will start with work on the Morgan Street Bridge and encompass the bridges, roadways and drainage systems for the Dan Ryan, Eisenhower, and Kennedy; and the portion of Congress Parkway that make up the interchange, a statement from Quinn’s office said.

The Illinois Department of Transportation project will, according to estimates by transportation planners, reduce traffic delays by at least 50 percent, save drivers 5 million hours annually and lead to a savings of 1.6 million gallons of fuel per year, the statement said.

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Of the more than 400,000 vehicles that use the interchange each day, about 33,000 are trucks, according to the statement. The interchange experiences an average of 940 crashes per year.

The work will create minimum of four lanes in each direction on I-90/94 at I-290/Congress to correct a lane balance issue; two lanes on the north-to-west and east-to north ramps; and local access lanes for northbound and southbound I-90/94. Ramps will be reconfigured to provide safer, more efficient traffic flow; add aesthetic features and improve the surrounding street network with bike lanes, wider sidewalks and improved access to transit.

“Improving the Circle Interchange is the perfect complement to the Tollway’s $2.2 billion project to rebuild and widen the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway,” Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said in the statement. “These improvements will have a dramatic impact on this major ‘jobs corridor’ and enhance the movement of people and goods throughout Chicagoland and the Midwest region.”

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(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)