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Panel urges higher tolls during higher volume traffic on I-90

Updated: July 3, 2012 9:42AM

An Illinois Tollway panel looking at ways to improve traffic flow along Interstate 90 is recommending “congestion pricing” — which would boost tolls during high-volume times such as rush hours.

The I-90 Corridor Planning Council Thursday presented the Illinois Tollway Board of Directors with recommendations for the I-90 Corridor from Chicago to Rockford that include implementing “congestion-priced, managed lanes on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway,” according to a tollway press release.

The I-90 corridor serves nearly 1 million travelers per day, it said.

The council was formed a year ago “to assess how to combine the reconstruction of the tollway’s portion of I-90 with plans to reduce congestion and increase environmentally sound transportation options throughout the corridor, such as express bus lanes and congestion pricing,” the release said.

“As a result, the planning council developed a blueprint to accommodate transit along the I-90 corridor and concluded that congestion pricing is a financially viable option to provide flexibility for future growth.”

It did not include a recommended amount for the higher tolls.

The proposal follows a nearly doubling of tolls Jan. 1 to pay for a variety of major projects. Tolls jumped 87.5 percent for motorists who use the wireless I-Pass device; for example, a 40-cent toll increased to 75 cents. Drivers who pay cash also saw a large increase, continuing to pay twice what I-Pass users do.

Other recommendations of the planning council include:

IDOT should consider continuing managed lanes with transit on the Kennedy Expressway.

Infrastructure improvements should include improved access to O’Hare International Airport, existing transit service and bike/pedestrian facilities on bridge crossings.

The tollway authority and Illinois Department of Transportation should conduct a joint study to make recommendations for improvements to connect the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway with the Kennedy Expressway, improve access to O’Hare International Airport, connect to existing transit, and integrate all future plans.

Local governments along the I-90 Corridor should plan for station areas, park-and-ride lots and other amenities needed to support transit options. IDOT and the tollway authority should also consider right of way acquisition to support and provide improved access to transit amenities.

Agencies should follow a consistent set of best practices in regard to environmental issues, including stormwater, green technologies and management of invasive species.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning should seek to develop regional policies for congestion pricing.

The council includes representatives of the two planing agencies along with ones from IDOT, the business community and environmental groups, the five county boards along the corridor, legislators and the Northwest Municipal Conference.

The release said the tollway will continue to coordinate with transit and transportation agencies to evaluate the report’s recommendations.

Rebuilding and widening the 54-year-old Jane Addams Memorial Tollway from the Kennedy Expressway to I-39 in Rockford in 2013-2016 is part of the 15-year, $12 billion capital program, Move Illinois: The Illinois Tollway Driving the Future.

“The Move Illinois program commits $2.2 billion to ensure that when the project is complete, I-90 will be a 21st century, state-of-the-art corridor linking Rockford to O’Hare Airport with eight lanes from the Kennedy Expressway to Randall Road and six lanes from Randall Road to I-39,” the release said.

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