The Illinois Tollway Shows How the Mile Long Bridge is “Built To Last”


“At the end of the day,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director José Alvarez, “these are two structures that are going to be around for decades.”

The two structures Alvarez is referring to make up the new Mile Long Bridge on the Tri-State Tollway (I-294).

How the bridge is being built – and the highly skilled, diverse workforce behind its construction – was the focus of the latest episode of “Built To Last,” a series of half-hour specials that runs every Sunday morning on ABC 7 Chicago. 

The specials, produced by the Chicago Regional Council of Union Carpenters & Contractors, highlight area projects being worked on by local trade union members and contractors. 

The episode, titled “Getting from Here to There,” featured Tollway leadership, project managers and labor officials discussing the complexity, challenges and skills required to build the two side-by-side 4,800-foot-long structures on one of the most heavily traveled segments of the Tollway system in a highly developed urban area. 

Up to 150,000 vehicles a day travel on the Mile Long Bridge, which serves as an important facility for the movement of people and freight throughout the region. The structures travel over three waterways, two railroad lines, a Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago facility, as well as major distribution facilities for UPS and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. 

“Interstate 294 is by far the most important corridor for us from a traffic perspective – not just traffic, but commercial vehicle traffic,” said Chief Planning Officer Rocco Zucchero. “This is one of the last of the original segments of the Illinois Tollway that dated back to the 1950s.”

Illinois Tollway leaders emphasized the agency’s track record of successfully delivering projects on time and within budget, with the entire reconstruction and widening of the Central Tri-State Tollway completed by the end of 2026, including the Mile Long Bridge.

“We do move very fast out here,” said Senior Project Manager Nicole Nutter. “You can see in 14 months how much they’ve been able to accomplish. It’s kind of mind-blowing some days.”

Built to Last can be seen here.