Today’s major highways were developed more than 100 years ago as trails and then farm-to-market roads. Through the years they were eventually expanded to become today’s major arterial roadways. Thus, the location and spacing of most of our arterial roadways were based on the original rural travel needs and did not anticipate today’s urban travel demands. For that reason, many of our principal arterial highways radiate from the City of Chicago like spokes of a wheel. Growth in the suburbs during the 50’s and 60’s was primarily residential in nature. Since most of the employment opportunities were located in Chicago, the radial arterial street network served the predominant travel demand. Major highway improvement efforts were undertaken to expand these radial arterial streets to meet increasing travel demands. In the 70’s and 80’s, significant growth occurred in the suburban ring around Chicago, most of which was a result of the migration of people and employment from the city. According to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), between 1970 and 1990, the population of the 6-county Chicago Region increased by only 4% but the urbanized area increased by approximately 33%. Will County is fast becoming part of that urbanized area.
As a result of suburban development over the last three decades, travel patterns have changed dramatically. In addition to the need to travel between the suburbs and the City of Chicago, significant travel demand was created to travel between suburbs. The regional arterial street network was not well designed to handle these new travel patterns.
In the early 1990’s, the Illinois Department of Transportation along with regional planning agencies recognized that the ability to expand the expressway system to meet long-distance travel needs is severely limited. The decentralized travel patterns also limit the ability of mass transit to efficiently serve this demand. Therefore, improving mobility on the existing arterial street system represents the most feasible and cost effective strategy to accommodate existing as well as future mobility needs. In order to serve this travel demand on arterial streets, a comprehensive network of roadways was developed to emphasize mobility while still recognizing land access needs. This arterial street system has been designated the Strategic Regional Arterial (SRA) system by IDOT.