CHICAGO – With the most severe storm of the season predicted to hit parts of northern Illinois on Tuesday, Governor Pat Quinn today directed the state’s transportation and emergency services agencies to prepare for a major snow-fighting effort. The governor also warned motorists to think twice before heading out on the roadways and to use extreme caution if they must drive. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois Tollway are prepared to deploy their full fleets of almost 800 snow plows in the northern part of the state, while Illinois State Police and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) are gearing up to provide assistance.
“We have a big storm coming our way and safety comes first,” Governor Quinn said. “While our state public safety employees will be doing all they can to help motorists and keep the roads clear, we are encouraging everyone in the storm’s path to take every precaution and avoid driving unless absolutely necessary.”
The National Weather Service forecast snow in northern Illinois to start in the early morning hours Tuesday and continue throughout the day, affecting both the morning and evening rush. The snow is expected to fall at a rate of up to an inch-and-a-half per hour at times. With wind gusts of 30 to 35 miles per hour, blowing snow is also expected to affect driving conditions and visibility.
“IDOT is preparing for severe winter weather conditions across the northern part of the state,” IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider said. “IDOT crews will be working to clear state roadways as needed, but we also ask motorists to take the necessary steps to help ensure their personal safety as well. Anyone driving in these kinds of conditions should be sure to buckle up, slow down and allow plenty of extra time to reach your destination. And please don’t crowd the snow plows.”
"The Illinois Tollway will begin plowing as soon as the snowfall begins, but we ask that our customers slow down and allow plenty of extra time,” Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said. “We urge our customers to be prepared for the possibility of heavy snow and reduced visibility throughout the day, and if they must drive, drivers should stay alert and focus all of their attention on the road, especially around entrance and exit ramps and toll plazas.”
“The Illinois State Police is advising the motoring public to take the necessary safety precautions before getting behind the wheel,” ISP Director Hiram Grau said. “Motorists should reduce speeds and drive at safe distances. Unless medical attention is required, any motorists involved in accidents are advised to exchange insurance and driver information to keep drivers and passengers safe and roads clear.”
IDOT is mobilizing approximately 600 snow plows to clear the roads in three highway districts in Northern Illinois that are expected to get hit by the storm.
The Illinois Tollway is mobilizing its full fleet of 182 snow plows in preparation for this expected major snow event to help make travel safer and easier for those who must be out on the 286-mile system of toll roads serving 12 counties in Northern Illinois.
Officials at IEMA are closely monitoring weather conditions and will be prepared to assist local officials with public safety issues if needed.
"We're in close contact with the National Weather Service for the latest weather predictions, as well as with local emergency management officials in the areas expected to be affected by Winter Storm Saturn," IEMA Director Jonathon Monken said. "We're encouraging people to stay aware of the weather conditions in their area and listen to safety messages from their local officials."
The Illinois Tollway’s Snow Operations Center will be activated as soon as necessary and staffed with traffic center operators and snow and ice control supervisors ready to manage this winter weather event. To help with snow removal efforts, the Tollway has cancelled all temporary lane closures.
IDOT and Illinois Tollway Keep Drivers Informed
In addition to working to keep roads free of snow and ice, the Illinois Tollway is also helping to provide drivers with additional information to help them reach their destinations safely during winter weather events.
For information about non-toll roads in the Chicago area and throughout Illinois, motorists can visit www.gettingaroundillinois.com before traveling to get a full report on current road conditions by route.
On Illinois Tollways, the Tollway’s Traffic and Incident Management System (TIMS) provides real-time travel times and roadway conditions via the Tollway’s website, www.illinoistollway.com, and on over-the-road electronic message signs throughout the Tollway.
Drivers on the Tollway and Expressways can call *999 from their cell phone to request assistance or report stranded vehicles. Drivers should note the roadway and direction of travel and nearest milepost or crossroad. The *999 service is funded by the Illinois Tollway and the Illinois Department of Transportation.
In addition, the Tollway operates a toll-free telephone line to keep customers up to date about weather conditions on its roadways. Customers can call 1-800-TOLL-FYI (1-800-865-5394) to get recorded information that is updated every two hours or as conditions require during winter storms.
Drivers also can sign up for Tollway Tweets at www.twitter.com or from the Tollway’s website at www.illinoistollway.com to receive real-time information about roadway incidents, including the type of incident, location and impact on traffic to assist drivers in planning their trips. Tweeters can follow all four Tollway Trips or just the roadways that interest them. The four are Tollway Trip 90, Tollway Trip 94/294, Tollway Trip 88 and Tollway Trip 355.
The Illinois Tollway also reminds customers that the seven Oases located along the Tollway system also serve as statewide warming centers. On the Tri-State Tollway (I-94/I-294/I-80), there are four Oases: Lake Forest, O’Hare, Hinsdale and Chicago Southland Lincoln in South Holland. There are two Oases on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) in Belvidere and Des Plaines, and one on the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88) in DeKalb.
Winter Weather Travel Tips
While IDOT and the Illinois Tollway are doing their part to keep the roads clear and traffic moving, drivers need to do their part, as well. The agencies offer the following winter driving tips:
- Clear snow and ice from all windows, mirrors and lights on your vehicle before you drive.
Blowing snow can significantly diminish visibility. Clearing all windows BEFORE you start driving assures maximum vision of your surroundings and assists in reducing ice and snow buildup as you drive.
- Stay alert to avoid distracted driving.
Illinois’ distracted driving law prohibits drivers from using electronic devices to text, email or access Internet sites while driving a vehicle at any time. Drivers should avoid any distractions that will take their eyes off of the road during inclement weather.
- Reduce speed in cash lanes at toll plazas.
Drivers paying cash at toll plazas should adjust their speed on approach during snow and ice storms. Watch for lane designations on approach to the toll plaza; switching lanes close to the toll plaza is unsafe, especially during winter weather.
- Adjust speed to road conditions and traffic around you.
Reducing speed during inclement weather conditions increases your ability to respond to the unexpected.
- Increase the interval between your vehicle and the one in front of you.
By creating more distance between your vehicle and others, you decrease your chances of a collision because stopping distances increase as pavement conditions deteriorate.
- Avoid unnecessary lane changes.
During heavy snowstorms, slush and packed snow build up in the area between traffic lanes. Abrupt or frequent lane changes may cause your vehicle to slide on the buildup and spin out of control.
- Keep away from snowplows.
Should you encounter snowplows, the safest choice is to keep back and let them do their job. They travel at a speed of approximately 30 miles per hour, so traffic delays should be expected. During periods of extremely heavy snow, Illinois Tollway snowplow trucks will work in tandem to remove as much ice, slush and snow as possible from all lanes at once.
- Do not use the shoulder of the road to pass a snowplow.
Some snowplows are equipped with wing plows that extend to the left or right of the vehicle. While these wings allow for more efficient removal of snow, they are nearly invisible to passing motorists due to blowing snow. De-icing materials spread from the rear of the truck may also be a distraction to motorists attempting to pass.
- Call *999 for roadway assistance.
Should you encounter car trouble and require roadway assistance, try to move your car to a safe position on the shoulder or in an untraveled area. Report stranded vehicles by dialing *999 from a cellular phone.
- Stay in your vehicle, H.E.L.P. is on the way.
During continued periods of extremely cold weather, the Illinois Tollway operates a “Zero Patrol” to supplement the Illinois State Police District 15 and the Tollway’s Highway Emergency Lane Patrol (H.E.L.P.) vehicles. IDOT’s Emergency Traffic Patrol Minutemen patrol Chicago area expressways. Stay in your vehicle – it’s the safest place to be if you are stranded.
About the Illinois Tollway
The Illinois Tollway is a user-fee system that receives no state or federal funds for maintenance and operations. The agency maintains and operates 286 miles of interstate tollways in 12 counties in Northern Illinois, including the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88), the Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355), the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) and the Tri-State Tollway (I-94/I-294/I-80).
About Illinois DOT
The Illinois Department of Transportation provides safe, cost-effective transportation for Illinois in ways that enhance quality of life, promote economic prosperity, and demonstrate respect for our environment. Illinois DOT provides leadership throughout Illinois for the improvement and coordination of the state's multi-faceted transportation system and serves as an advocate and trusted adviser to local governments and other community agencies involved in providing transportation access and services for all of Illinois. For more information, visit http://www.dot.il.gov.