CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today debuted Open Road Tolling lanes at the Cermak Road Toll Plaza on the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), which means there are now 9 mainline toll plazas where I-PASS users can travel at highway speed while their tolls are collected electronically and will no longer have to slow down or stop at tollbooths.
Commuter Dorothy Lawson, who drives through three toll plazas on the Tri-State Tollway daily from her home in south suburban Blue Island to her job in north suburban Park Ridge, was at the event and said she and her family will benefit from her reduced commute time. Instead of being stuck in traffic, she can spend more time at home.
“I’m a working mother of two little girls so time is precious,” Lawson said. “These new Open Road Tolling lanes are going to cut my travel time by about 30 minutes each way which means I’ll have more time to make my kids’ dinner, finish homework, take baths and read bed time stories.”
Open Road Tolling lanes debuted Tuesday at the Cermak Road plaza, following the opening of non-stop tolling lanes over the weekend at the 82nd St. and 83rd St. toll plazas on I-294. The Army Trail Road plaza on I-355 now offers Open Road Tolling northbound and the southbound lanes will be open before Christmas. In time for holiday travel, the Illinois Tollway achieved its 2005 congestion-relief goals of providing commuters with Open Road Tolling lanes at nine mainline toll plazas.
Earlier this year, Open Road Tolling lanes debuted at the Irving Park Road and Touhy Avenue plazas on I-294, the Edens Spur on I-94, the Aurora plaza on I-88 and the Boughton Road plaza on I-355. Illinois is the first state in the nation to convert a barrier toll plaza system to the new Open Road Tolling technology.
“Dorothy’s story exemplifies how Open Road Tolling can really make a positive difference in someone’s life,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “Instead of spending time sitting in traffic, she can now get to work and home quicker and with less stress. This is why I have been such an advocate of Open Road Tolling.”
Jewel-Osco President Larry Wahlstrom was also on hand to remind drivers that I-PASS transponders and gift cards make great holiday gifts. “We are happy to partner with the Illinois Tollway to sell I-PASS for commuters,” said Wahlstrom. “So stop by a Jewel-Osco store and give the gift of time.”
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.
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 at least 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 nine toll plazas, other projects scheduled to be completed in 2005 include the Rebuild & Widen of the “washboard” section of I-88 in DuPage County and the rehabilitation of 32 miles of pavement on the far end of I-88 in Lee & Ogle Counties. The Rebuild & Widen of the northbound lanes on the first 5 miles of the South Tri-State is nearing completion and is scheduled to be finished in 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:
· Website, www.illinoistollway.com – 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.