CHICAGO – On Sunday, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich was joined by Indy 500 champion Bobby Rahal at the Touhy Avenue toll plaza on the Tri-State Tollway to debut the three new Open Road Tolling lanes that will allow drivers with I-PASS to get to their destinations faster on I-294 because they no longer have to slow down or stop at tollbooths.
Rahal christened the new lanes by driving north on I-294 from the O’Hare Oasis, after receiving the all-clear signal from Gov. Blagojevich to drive through the new, non-stop tolling lanes in a red 2005 Indianapolis 500 Chevrolet Corvette Pace Car provided courtesy of General Motors.
The Touhy Avenue Plaza is the fourth of eight toll plazas to deliver Open Road Tolling lanes by the end of 2005 which also include Irving Park Road on I-294, Boughton Road on I-355 and Edens Spur on I-94. Drivers will also soon be able to drive through without stopping at the following plazas: Cermak, 82nd St., 83rd St. (I-294) and at Army Trail Rd. (I-355), 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.
"Thanks to Bobby Rahal for coming out today to dramatize how Open Road Tolling lanes will allow motorists to get to their destinations faster,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I’ve been coming out for each Open Road Tolling opening because I want drivers to know we are doing everything we can to reduce congestion.”
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.
“I was able to convince Bobby Rahal to christen the new Open Road Tolling lanes for us after he told me how much he liked his I-PASS,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Jack Hartman. “We do want to emphasize, however, that while customers no longer have to stop to pay tolls, they must follow the posted speed limit of 55 m.p.h. as they drive through the Open Road Tolling lanes.”
Rahal is an I-PASS customer and Tollway user. He is only the second person ever to win the Indianapolis 500 as a driver (1986) and as an owner (2004) when driver Buddy Rice took the crown for the Rahal Letterman Racing team.
Three Open Road Tolling lanes are now available for customers with I-PASS at the Touhy plaza. A fourth Open Road Tolling lane will be available after the Tri-State Tollway is rebuilt and widened from Balmoral Avenue to Dempster Street from 2006 to 2007. Work also will continue in 2006 to complete improvements on the cash side of the plaza. An I-PASS Only lane will remain available on the cash side of the plaza for traffic exiting just past the plaza.
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 January 2006.
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:
– Construction Section – for details by road & lane closures
· 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
· Tollway eNewsletter – sign up at www.illinoistollway.com
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.