DOWNERS GROVE – Governor Blagojevich and the Illinois Tollway leaders celebrated with local officials today as they waved through the first vehicles to use the Open Road Tolling (ORT) lanes at the Waukegan Toll Plaza near the Wisconsin stateline on the north end of the Tri-State Tollway (I-94). With the completion of the Waukegan Plaza, Illinois is now the only state in the nation to feature Open Road Tolling at every plaza in its entire system. The move heralded the completion of a non-stop travel corridor from Wisconsin to Indiana.
With the additional launch of ORT lanes Sunday at the Waukegan Toll Plaza, now all 20 mainline toll plazas allow drivers with I-PASS to travel through tollbooths without stopping or slowing down. ORT is a key component of Gov. Blagojevich’s $5.3 billion Congestion-Relief Program. The $327 million ORT construction project began in the Spring of 2005, and most drivers are already reporting average time savings of 10 minutes each way. The availability of non-stop tolling lanes systemwide makes Illinois the first state whose entire mainline toll system has been converted to Open Road Tolling in such a short time.
"We’ve completed the conversion of our entire Tollway system to Open Road Tolling in just two years as promised, and we're the only state in the nation to do that.” Gov. Blagojevich said. “The idea behind Open Road Tolling was to help people get where they're going faster, and it's working. There's less congestion around the toll plazas. And, with fewer cars waiting to go through tollbooths, emissions are down, so the air is cleaner. Open Road Tolling has made a real difference in people's lives, and that's what government is all about.”
Tollway Board Chairman John Mitola told event attendees gathered on the Wadsworth Road Bridge just south of the Waukegan Toll Plaza, that successful completion of ORT lanes systemwide is the direct result of the Tollway staff, engineers and contractors working together towards a collective goal – improving service to customers.
“I am proud of the fact that the Illinois Tollway stepped up and honored its commitment to Gov. Blagojevich and Illinois to bring the congestion relief benefits of Open Road Tolling as quickly as humanly possible,” Mitola said. “I’d like to thank everyone for their ongoing work to minimize the impact of construction on drivers. And I want to assure Tollway drivers that we will stay vigilant to keep traffic flowing while work continues in the cash lanes at some plazas and on rebuilding other segments of the system for additional congestion relief.”
Open Road Tolling Arrives in the Waukegan Area
The debut of ORT in the stateline area not only reduces travel times on this busy route used by commuters and vacationers into and out of the city but also completes the conversion to non-stop tolling on the entire Tri-State Tollway (I-94, I-294, I-80/I-294) used by commercial truck traffic traveling in and through the state.
The Waukegan Toll Plaza is being reconstructed at its existing location to accommodate ORT, improve safety and ease traffic flow. Three ORT lanes are now available in each direction at the Waukegan Toll Plaza. Construction continues on the cash plaza where there are four tollbooth lanes northbound and four tollbooth lanes southbound. When work is completed on the cash side, there will be four tollbooth lanes northbound and five tollbooth lanes southbound.
In addition, the Wadsworth Road Bridge, just south of the plaza, is closed to traffic for work to replace and lengthen the bridge to accommodate ORT at the Waukegan Plaza. The bridge is scheduled to be closed until later this fall.
How Open Road Tolling Works
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 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.
Drivers who want to take advantage of the time savings provided by ORT need to buy an I-PASS, which they can do online at www.getipass.com
; at Jewel-Oscos throughout Chicagoland; or by calling 1-800-UC-IPASS. For those who don’t have I-PASS, the $50 investment is worthwhile even if they only travel the Tollway occasionally because the I-PASS pre-paid balance never expires and it gives them a 50 percent discount on tolls.
RVs, trailers can use ORT lanes
I-PASS users traveling in an RV or those who are towing a boat, camper or trailer can also use the new ORT lanes, so they do not need to wait in manual cash lanes at these plazas. The new ORT lanes automatically calculate and deduct the proper toll. I-PASS users should have their accounts updated to include the license plates of their trailers and RVs, as well as their cars.
The construction to convert barrier toll plazas to the new ORT technology began last year and is being done at a record pace. With the addition of Meyers Road, York Road and Elgin Road Toll Plazas, ORT lanes are now available at 20 plazas: Waukegan and Edens Spur (I-94); Boughton Road and Army Trail Road (I-355); Aurora, DeKalb, Dixon, Meyers/York Road (I-88); South Beloit, Belvidere, Elgin, Marengo, Devon Road and River Road (I-90); and Irving Park Road, Cermak Road, Touhy Avenue, 82nd Street, 83rd Street and 163rd Street (I-294).
ORT is an important part of Gov. Blagojevich’s $5.3 billion Congestion-Relief Program, Open Roads for a Faster Future, which will reduce travel times by also restoring most of the system, adding lanes to many miles of existing roads, and building the I-355 South Extension into Will County.
Getting Tollway Construction Info
The Tollway offers a variety of ways for drivers to get the latest information on construction and traffic on our roads.
- www.illinoistollway.com – Construction Section – for details by roadway
- 1-800-TOLL-FYI – daily lane closure information
- Roadway and electronic signs
- www.gcmtravel.com – travel times
- Sign up for E-mail updates
- Up-to-the-minute traffic by road – www.nbc5.com
- Construction eNewsletter – www.illinoistollway.com
About the Illinois Tollway
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 its $5.3 billion Congestion-Relief Program, Open Roads for a Faster Future, which will reduce travel times by restoring most of the system, adding lanes to many 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. Tollway customers can save time and money with I-PASS electronic toll collection - Get I-PASS & Get Going!