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Illinois' Last Casino Construction in Full Force for Summer Debut

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The last casino in Illinois is set to open this summer in Des Plaines, a Chicago suburb adjacent to O'Hare. Located on Des Plaines River Road near Devon Avenue, the casino was officially and
fittingly named "Rivers Casino" on March 24 by developer Midwest Gaming. Des Plaines received the state's last casino license after beating out bordering town Rosemont.

With the opening date nearing, construction on the $445 million casino is in full force with the building of the facility, including the planned 43,000-square-foot casino floor and the 143,000 square feet of total space. So far, the main building has been erected with two individual entrances and a parking garage on the north side of the lot. Before, the site held 11 vacant office buildings, but the last remaining buildings were demolished back in early October.

As the casino construction began, Des Plaines also decided to completely reconstruct 1.5 miles of Des Plaines River Road from a few blocks north of Touhy Avenue to Devon Avenue. The road reconstruction project was officially announced on June 15, 2010, by the Des Plaines Public Works and Engineering Department, which also stated that construction was expected to take about a year and would hopefully coincide with the casino's opening date.

The road reconstruction project involves widening and raising the road bed, which will help battle traffic to and from the casino. It will also protect the casino site from the Des Plaines River potentially flooding, like it did in September 2008 when intense rain put River Road under several feet of water. And with the casino only about 100 yards from the river, preventing flood damage would be crucial to the future of the casino.

But the road construction has proved to be a nightmare for residents and commuters who use Des Plaines River Road. The 1.5-mile stretch of road is down to one lane each way with the rest of the road stripped to the ground. Narrow turn lanes, tight corners and aggressive rush hour traffic at the Touhy and Devon intersections make almost-collisions commonplace. Driving down the road during rush hour can lead to half hour waits and dangerously packed traffic.

Kat Benson, a Schiller Park resident, said, "The construction has the one lane so narrow. To drive from the Touhy to the Devon intersection, it's taking me about 25 minutes each way. The intersections are the worst too because trucks barely have enough room to make the left-hand turn into the one lane. They're literally inches away from scraping cars waiting at the light."

Aside from the construction, Midwest Gaming is also planning on bringing 1,000 new jobs to the area and has announced a job fair will take place this month. Des Plaines' unemployment rate has consistently hovered above the state average and with 1,000 new jobs opening up, Des Plaines' residents could certainly benefit.

The official opening date has yet to be announced, but Midwest Gaming and the city of Des Plaines expect a summer debut of both the new road and the casino. The job fair will also take place April 8 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Rosemont Convention Center.

Rachel Krech provides an in-depth look at current environmental issues and local Chicago news stories. As a college student from the Chicago suburbs pursuing two science degrees, she applies her knowledge and passion to both topics to garner further public awareness.

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