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Downers Grove, Ill. — The Illinois Tollway Customer Service and Planning Committee recommended that the full Board of Directors should consider a proposal to expand the agency’s current plans to rebuild the Central Tri-State Tollway (I-294) between Balmoral Avenue and 95th Street and increase funding for the Move Illinois capital program to accommodate enhancements to the project that will increase capacity, reduce congestion and improve travel reliability.

Currently, $1.9 billion is provided to replace the Central Tri-State Tollway as part of Move Illinois. Expansion of the project would provide for construction of additional lanes and inclusion of transit and technology accommodations and would require a $2.1 billion increase in funding for the Illinois Tollway’s $12 million Move Illinois Program. Should the Tollway Board expand the Move Illinois capital program and advance the recommended alternative, no toll increase would be required to fund the improvements.

“We already know that the Central Tri-State Tollway (I-294) will be rebuilt as part of the Move Illinois Program. The 22-mile-long stretch is a patchwork of pavement that includes original 60-year-old roadway and key infrastructure that is deteriorating, so we already have plans in place for work that is necessary to repair aging roadway,” said Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom. “If the Tollway is going to make the best investment for our customers and the region, we need to expand these plans, build for the long-term and deliver innovative improvements that provide comprehensive solutions to regional transportation needs.”

Over the past year and a half, Tollway staff has met with communities, businesses and utilities one-on-one to understand their near-term and long-term plans related to the Central Tri-State Tollway, and the agency convened a Corridor Planning Council with local governments, civic organizations and freight industry leaders providing a wide range of perspectives.

The Tollway’s study to date identified the corridor’s top needs as congestion, access, flooding and freight, which were all taken into account and serve as the basis for the recommended alternative for the Central Tri-State Tollway Project.

The recommendation includes continue working collaboratively with individual communities, businesses and the public and beginning the necessary planning and design work for the recommended alternative, including:

  • Building additional lanes, including integrating a Flex Lane through the full length of the corridor, which is a wide inside shoulder with access controlled through the use of SmartRoad technology.
  • Delivering improvements at the two major system interchanges at I-290 and I-55.
  • Providing for regional stormwater solutions in partnership with the Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and individual communities.
  • Considering additional noisewalls, aesthetics and quality-of-life improvements such as local park enhancements, tree plantings and bike and pedestrian connections.
  • Considering new truck parking opportunities to reduce freight congestion and access.

The Tollway’s analysis estimates improvements delivered by the recommended alternative would reduce stop-and-go traffic and delays and result in significant reductions in peak travel times, including a 55 percent reduction in time it would take to drive the full length of the Tollway.

Reducing delays, eliminating stop-and-go congestion and providing new truck parking opportunities would increase safety and travel reliability. In addition, inclusion of Flex Lanes would provide greater flexibility for expansion of reliable suburban transit service and improve maintenance operations and incident response.

The proposal to increase funding for the Move Illinois capital program to accommodate enhancements to the Central Tri-State Project will be presented to the full board at the Board of Directors meeting scheduled for April 27.

The Central Tri-State Tollway opened in 1958 as part of the original Tollway system is a critical piece of the region’s transportation network and economy. Currently, more than 115,000 people work within a mile of the Central-Tri-State Tollway.

Forming the backbone of the region’s system of interstates, the Tri-State Tollway connects four other interstates, I-80, I-55, I-290, I-88, and I-90, with the new I-490 Tollway being built as part of the Elgin O’Hare Western Access Project set to become the sixth interstate connection. The corridor provides critical connections to both O’Hare International and Chicago Midway International Airports, and also plays an important role in Chicago’s freight economy, which supports more than 176,000 jobs and generates $12.3 billion in personal income.

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