CHICAGO – Commuters and holiday travelers who use the Boughton Road Toll Plaza on the North-South Tollway should arrive at their destinations sooner than planned beginning today with the completion of Open Road Tolling lanes for I-PASS users. On Monday, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich opened new non-stop toll lanes at the second toll plaza to be converted in just over a week, which means that drivers with I-PASS transponders will get places faster, because they will no longer have to slow down or stop to go through tollbooths.
The Boughton Road Toll Plaza is the second of eight toll plazas scheduled to provide Open Road Tolling lanes by the end of 2005. Drivers with I-PASS are already saving time with Open Road Tolling at the Irving Park Toll Plaza on I-294, and drivers will also soon be able to drive through without stopping at the following plazas: Edens Spur (I-94); Army Trail Rd. (I-355); as well as Cermak, 82nd St., 83rd St. and Touhy (I-294), with the remaining mainline plazas to be converted by fall 2006. Illinois is the first state in the nation to convert a barrier toll plaza system to the new Open Road Tolling technology.
“Getting to family get-togethers or the shopping malls this holiday season will be easier and smoother for commuters and holiday travelers. Just think about what you can do instead of waiting in line at toll plazas. Soon, rather than spending time sitting in traffic, you will have more time to do the things that matter to you like spending time with your family,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
The conversion of the Tollway’s traditional toll plazas to a barrier-free system allows I-PASS users to travel at highway speeds while their tolls are collected electronically by a monotube overhead, reducing congestion and travel times.
Vehicles without I-PASS or that need to exit shortly after the plaza will pull right into smaller traditional toll plazas where they can pay cash to toll collectors or use I-PASS, and not impact the free-flow of traffic on the mainline. Separating I-PASS traffic from vehicles paying cash also improves safety at toll plazas.
“This is the light at the end of the tunnel for the construction that is underway at multiple toll plazas,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Jack Hartman. “Drivers who have been inconvenienced by toll plaza conversion work are already reaping the benefits of reduced travel times at the Irving Park Toll Plaza, and will see further benefits by the end of December as additional plaza conversions are completed.”
The debut on Monday included representatives from communities served by the Tollway that are benefiting from the 42,000 jobs created this year and economic development related to the Governor’s 10-year, $5.3 billion Congestion-Relief Plan, Open Roads for a Faster Future.
Open Road Tolling is just one of the projects underway as part of the Congestion-Relief Plan that will reduce average travel time on the Tollway by another 10-15 minutes one way. Construction has also started on the Extension of I-355 south to Will County; the Reconstruction of the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88); and the Rebuild & Widen of the South Tri-State (I-294) from the Kingery Expressway (I-394) to 167th St.
In addition to delivering Open Road Tolling at 8 toll plazas, other construction milestones coming up in 2005 include completion of the Rebuild & Widen of the “washboard” section of I-88 in DuPage County; the Rehabilitation of 32 miles of pavement on the far end of I-88 in Lee & Ogle Counties; and the Rebuild & Widen of the northbound lanes on the first 5 miles of the South Tri-State by year’s end.
Construction Closures on Hold Also to Ease Holiday Travel
The Illinois Tollway will suspend all temporary mainline lane closures on construction projects over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, from noon on Wednesday, November 23 until 9 a.m. on Monday, November 28.
Over the holiday weekend, motorists may notice workers in the construction areas, including closed toll lanes at the Army Trail Road Toll Plaza on I-355; the South Beloit, Belvidere, Marengo, Elgin, Devon and River Road Toll Plazas on I-90; and the 82nd/83rd Street, Cermak and Touhy Toll Plazas on I-294, for the conversion to Open Road Tolling. But contractors will not be moving equipment or closing lanes so as not to impede traffic beyond the existing work zone.
Because lane re-configurations into crossovers still exist, motorists are asked to allow extra time when driving through construction zones. Slower speeds may be necessary due to shifts in traffic, narrow lanes or no shoulders. Motorists must still obey the construction zone speed limit of 45 m.p.h. as posted, even if no workers are present.
The Tollway has been working hard to minimize the impact of construction by maintaining the same number of lanes during construction whenever possible, sending alerts to media about temporary lane closures (usually scheduled off-peak), and providing construction and traffic information to the public through the following mechanisms:
· 1-800-TOLL-FYI – information on any lane closures (attempt to maintain same number of lanes during construction except for temporary, usually off-peak lane closures)
· Roadway & overhead signs, including Dynamic Message Signs
The Illinois Tollway 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). In 2005, the Tollway kicked off Governor Blagojevich’s 10-year, $5.3 billion Congestion-Relief Plan that will reduce travel times by rebuilding/restoring 90 percent of the system, adding lanes to about 117 miles of existing roads, converting 20 mainline toll plazas to barrier-free Open Road Tolling, and extending I-355 south to I-80 in Will County.