CHICAGO – With increased travel during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, those who use the Edens Spur Toll Plaza can now arrive at their destinations sooner than planned thanks to the completion of Open Road Tolling lanes for I-PASS users. On Tuesday, Governor Rod Blagojevich opened new non-stop toll lanes at the third 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 Edens Spur Toll Plaza is the third 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 at the Boughton Road Toll Plaza on I-355. Drivers will also soon be able to drive through without stopping at the following plazas: Army Trail Rd. (I-355); Cermak, Touhy, 82nd St., and 83rd St. (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.
"More than 90 percent of holiday travel is by car, and Open Road Tolling will get travelers to Thanksgiving dinner safer and sooner. Whether it’s spending time with family and friends, or getting the best shopping deals, travelers will be spending less time in traffic, and more time enjoying the holiday season," said Gov. Blagojevich.
Daily I-PASS usage at the Edens Spur Toll Plaza is currently 73 percent. Over 238,300 vehicles traveled through the Edens Spur Toll Plaza during Thanksgiving weekend in 2004.
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 will pull to the 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.
"The momentum is building with our third plaza opening in just over a week," said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Jack Hartman. "The difficulties people have endured through construction are quickly giving way to a positive outlook as drivers experience how much faster and easier their trips can be with I-PASS and Open Road Tolling. And it will only get better as we open five more plazas by the end of this year."
The opening on Tuesday 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.
Getting Construction Information
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: