ROCKFORD – Governor Rod Blagojevich returned to Rockford today to make good on his promise to the Rock River Valley region – elimination of all tolls at the Cherry Valley Toll Plaza on the Northwest Tollway (I-90). The total elimination of toll collection at the plaza is the first step in realizing the congestion relief solutions outlined for the Rockford area in the Illinois Tollway’s 10-year, $5.3 billion Capital Plan -- Open Roads for a Faster Future.
"Improving the area’s toll plazas and Tollway roads to reduce traffic congestion is a major step in my efforts to make this region more accessible, more marketable, and more attractive to employers," Blagojevich said. "The Tollway’s new Long-Range Plan is a roadmap for the improvement projects that will make use of the latest transportation and construction technologies to manage congestion and reduce travel times in the years and decades ahead."
The Governor, Illinois Tollway Board Member Carl Towns, and Tollway Executive Director Jack Hartman were all on hand to end toll collection at the plaza, identify interim roadway safety improvements, and announce additional plans to ease congestion in the region via Open Road Tolling and roadway reconstruction and widening projects.
Last December, the Illinois Tollway removed the portion of the Cherry Valley Toll Plaza used by southbound drivers to exit the Northwest Tollway in order to reduce the congestion caused by this toll collection point. To cover the revenue lost by the elimination of tolls in both directions, the toll rate at the nearby South Beloit Toll Plaza was increased in January 2004. The Tollway could not remove the other half of the toll plaza at that time due to safety concerns and a lack of funding for the interchange reconstruction needed before the plaza could be safely removed.
Today, the Tollway debuted interim safety measures that allow the discontinuation of toll collection for northbound traffic. This completes the first phase improvements to the Cherry Valley interchange to allow faster, safer, and more efficient travel through an area that has historically been known for its traffic congestion. As part of the Tollway’s 10-year, $5.3 billion Capital Plan, the second phase slated to begin in 2006 calls for removal of the remaining northbound toll plaza structure and complete redesign and reconstruction of the interchange and ramps used by northbound drivers to enter the Northwest Tollway (I-90) for travel to Rockford and Chicago.
"As part of the Governor’s vision for the Illinois Tollway, we will be reducing travel times system wide," said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Jack Hartman. "No longer will the Cherry Valley Toll Plaza and interchange be viewed as an impediment to commerce and a source of frustration to drivers. The interim steps we’re taking today ensure that traffic can flow freely and safely as we make good on our promise to the drivers, businesses and local leaders in the Rock River Valley region."
Interim Safety Measures
Interim roadway safety improvements were completed in preparation for the discontinuation of toll collection to ensure that free-flowing traffic travels safely and at appropriate speeds through the toll plaza structure and interchange ramps. The toll plaza structure will remain to help slow traffic, even though tolls will no longer be collected. A 25 m.p.h. speed limit has been set for travel through the toll plaza structure and a 15 m.p.h. speed limit has been set on the westbound ramp until future reconstruction is complete. Additional signage with flashing lights has been posted to alert drivers to the reduced speed limits, as well as to caution westbound drivers of the sharp curve ramp. Safety improvements also include improved pavement striping and chevron markings to clearly delineate traffic lanes structure to alert drivers to the need to slow down and pay attention.
Additional improvements for the Rock River Valley region are included in the Governor’s 10-year, $5.3 billion Tollway Capital Plan approved by the Illinois Tollway Board of Directors in September. Investments in Rock River Valley region will include the reconstruction of the Cherry Valley interchange as well as reconstruction and widening of the Northwest Tollway (I-90) from Newberg Road to Rockton Road, just south of the Wisconsin border. In addition, the plan calls for conversion to Open Road Tolling at the South Beloit Toll Plaza and consolidation of toll plazas in Belvidere and Marengo as part of the conversion. Open Road Tolling will allow I-PASS users to travel through the plazas at highway speeds, reducing congestion and wait-time for all drivers.
"The Illinois Tollway plays a vital role in the Northern Illinois economy by allowing the movement of people, goods and services in and out of the region," Director Carl Towns said. "We are confident that these improvements outlined in the long-range plan will increase the efficiency of our system and help boost the area’s economy."Governor Ends Toll Collection at Cherry Valley Toll Plaza.
The Cherry Valley interchange and Northwest Tollway (I-90) improvements also are playing a vital role in the Governor’s Opportunity Returns program, his regional economic initiative announced in 2003 designed to spur growth in the Rock River Valley region. Opportunity Returns, which involves more than a dozen state agencies, is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs to date in Illinois.
About the Illinois Tollway
The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority maintains and operates 274 miles of interstate tollways in 12 counties in Northern Illinois, including the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88), the North-South Tollway (I-355), the Northwest Tollway (I-90) and the Tri-State Tollway (I-94, I-294, I-80/I-294). The Illinois Tollway offers customers I-PASS electronic toll collection for congestion relief and ease of travel. Call 1-800-UC-IPASS, visit www.getipass.com or go to Jewel-Osco or Road Ranger in the Rockford area to buy an I-PASS. I-PASS customers with existing accounts can also manage their accounts online. For more information, go to www.illinoistollway.com. Get I-PASS and Get Going!