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Galena Bypass

Special Update - June 2014

The Illinois Department of Transportation is initiating a funding and financing study for the US 20 corridor. The study is expected to be completed in October of 2014.

Project Status

This Phase 1 engineering study was concluded on September 22, 2005 with the signing of the Record of Decision by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). This decision concludes that the Selected Alterative (Longhollow Freeway with South Simmons Mound variation) best satisfies the purpose and need, causes the least environmental impacts, and complies with the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA). The FHWA’s decision is based on full consideration of information contained in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), public input received at various public information meetings held throughout the course of the study, and public hearings held on June 25, 2003 in Freeport and June 26, 2003 in Galena.

The FHWA‘s decision allowed the Selected Alternative to be advanced through detailed design and construction. The Galena Bypass segment of the proposed freeway was the first segment to receive funding for design engineering. The first stage of this detailed design involved the preparation earthwork plans for the Galena Bypass. These plans were completed in May of 2013. Additional funding is necessary in order to continue the design work including preparing the roadway and structure plans for the various bridges located along the proposed bypass. Additional information pertaining to the Galena Bypass project is available at the link provided below. 

Galena Bypass Website 

Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Final Environmental Impact Statement

Record of Decision 20 Rod.pdf


The purpose of the proposed project is to provide a transportation facility that properly addresses existing and projected system deficiencies and seeks to improve the safety and efficiency of the transportation system in northwest Illinois. The US Route 20 improvement would provide a high-type highway with an appropriate connection to the four-lane facility west of Illinois Route 84 (northwest of Galena) and extend
47 miles to the east connecting to a previously approved four-lane facility near Freeport. This improvement and the Mississippi River crossing (Julien Dubuque Bridge) are the only remaining two-lane sections of US Route 20 left to be studied for multi-lane improvements between Waterloo, Iowa and Rockford, Illinois.

The need for the proposed project is based on several aspects of the currently inadequate transportation system. The study addresses the need for the proposed action in terms of regional economic characteristics, system capacity, safety concerns, community access, and system continuity.

Due to the proximity of the Chicago area there has been a dramatic growth in the number of second homes, along with the recent increases in tourism and recreational related activities and shifts in
employment trends in the southern and central regions
of JoDaviess County, which have all contributed to a doubling of traffic on US Route 20 over the past two decades. Local commuting patterns and increased truck travel have also contributed to the additional traffic on US Route 20. In addition to the significantly increased travel due to the tourist attractions and developments, there are more local trips and greater truck transport demands.


Existing traffic and traffic projections for existing US Route 20 for the year 2020 indicate the need for a four-lane facility. Current IDOT criteria state that a four-lane facility is warranted when traffic reaches a two-way Design Hourly Volume (DHV) of 800. Presently this section of existing US Route 20 generally exceeds this with traffic volumes ranging from 780 to 1100 DHV.

US Route 20 in the project area was constructed through a land corridor whose topographic and geologic features are characterized by undulating terrain, with steep ridges and narrow valleys and bedrock strata that lie close to the surface. These physical conditions directly influenced the highway’s alignment configuration which often followed existing contours of the area's ridges and valleys.

The existing geometry of US Route 20 also reduces the efficiency to move people and goods through the region. Traffic backups develop at many locations behind slow moving vehicles, a result of extensive

lengths of no-passing zones, restricted sight distances, steep grades and, generally, only one travel lane operating in each direction. Most of existing US Route 20 between Galena and Freeport does not meet IDOT’s current design standards for rural highways. Nearly 50 percent of existing US Route 20 comprises vertical and horizontal curves that do not meet IDOT’s current standards for rural highways. In addition, more than 10 percent of this section has grades steeper than the maximum grade allowed for a roadway to remain in place.
According to current IDOT design standards for a two-lane roadway, passing sight distance (passing zones) should be available for at least 40 percent of a roadway’s length. Passing zones account for about 35 percent of the roadway. Actual passing opportunities are available much less than this percentage due to the high volume of traffic.

From an operational perspective, US Route 20’s history of relatively high accident rates is indicative of substandard roadway geometry. Although many of the accidents along US Route 20 may be attributable to geometric deficiencies, straightening the curves and widening the shoulders will not correct all the safety problems along this section of US Route 20.

The IDOT Office of Planning and Programming classifies US Route 20 as a Major Arterial Highway within the rural State highway system. In general, this means the route connects large towns or cities, “long-distance trip” traffic generators, and integrates interstate and intercounty services, while providing a high degree of mobility at high operating speeds and direct routing for long trips.


The proposed project is needed to complete the missing four-lane section on US Route 20 between Illinois Route 84 northwest of Galena and the Freeport Bypass. Upon completion of this project and the Mississippi Bridge at Dubuque, US Route 20 would have continuous four-lane capacity through northwestern Illinois and northern Iowa from Rockford to Waterloo.

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