A car wades through the Dixie Highway viaduct in Homewood after a storm on July 5. Repairing the drainage system is on IDOT's to-do list, but it might be a few years in the future. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
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Help might be coming for flood-prone Homewood viaduct

Homewood’s Dixie Highway viaduct becomes a small lake nearly every time there is a torrential rain storm. But the structure’s drainage problems could be addressed in coming years.

After the state announced on July 7 a six-year, nearly $41 billion infrastructure investment program, the Chronicle inquired whether the longstanding viaduct drainage repairs were included.

Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) spokeswoman Maria Castenada said preliminary engineering and environmental studies to improve Dixie Highway from Harwood Avenue to Sycamore Drive were completed in April and that the proposed project includes replacement of a storm sewer draining the viaduct.

A car wades through the Dixie Highway viaduct in Homewood after a storm on July 5. Repairing the drainage system is on IDOT's to-do list, but it might be a few years in the future. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
A car wades through the Dixie Highway viaduct in Homewood after a storm on July 5. Repairing the drainage system is on IDOT’s to-do list, but it might be a few years in the future. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

The project also will include roadway reconstruction, resurfacing and ADA-compliance sidewalk ramps, Castenada said.

The project is included in IDOT’s fiscal year 2024-2029 Proposed Highway & Multimodal Improvement Program. 

She suggested the project might be ready for bids “in later years of the multi-year program contingent upon plan readiness, land acquisition and funding availability through future annual legislative appropriations.”

The viaduct project was included in IDOT’s 2017-2022 planning list. 

The structure has been flooding for decades. The late Jim Wright, a former firefighter and village historian, said in the days before mutual aid pacts with area fire departments, Homewood used to park fire trucks on the west side of the tracks when big storms were predicted because viaduct flooding would increase response times in emergencies. The fire department is on the east side of the tracks.

A 2004 study reported that the viaduct suffered from both inadequate drainage design and a collapsed pipe north of the structure.

“The main purpose of the proposed project is to alleviate the flooding issue,” Castenada said. “The existing drainage system will be replaced and new storm sewers will be installed starting from the intersection of Dixie Highway and Harwood Avenue, west through the underpass to Dixie Highway and Park Avenue and continuing north along Dixie Highway.”

She said the new sewer line will connect to the existing storm sewer trunk line near Sycamore Drive, with an overflow structure which will allow higher flows to follow the natural overflow route into the ditch to the east.

The project is early in the design phase, which includes contract plan preparation and land acquisition, Castenada said. The phase typically takes approximately two to four years but can take longer.

Although the state’s total infrastructure program could cost nearly $41 billion, IDOT’s Proposed Highway & Multimodal Improvement Program is estimated at $27 billion and is funded by a number of revenues collected by the state. Those revenues include bond proceeds, motor vehicle registrations, motor fuel tax, interest income, sales tax and federal and local reimbursements. 

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