Clocks at O'Hare, tollway oasis peeves, eclectic Pace bus routes, Metra ticket glitches and local road tie-ups.
All questions from readers that we hope to answer today.
Flying highUnited Airlines previewed its new Boeing 787 Dreamliner last week. The aircraft is billed as offering more range while using less fuel. That means longer nonstop flights for passengers. Other changes include bigger overhead bins, larger windows and better lighting. The first Dreamliner will be delivered to United in September, and 50 are on order.
Batting first is Cubs fan Richard Bauer of Wheaton, who says Pace's Wrigley Field Express bus is a home run on the way to the game, but the route home is a curve ball. The round-trip bus picks up suburbanites in Lombard and Schaumburg.
"We rode the bus July 15 to the game and noticed that different routes were taken to and from the game," Bauer said.
"On the inbound trip, the driver took the Tri-State (I-294) north to the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90), exited at River Road and then circled back onto the Kennedy Expressway to Addison and then to the ballpark. On the outbound trip, the same driver took northbound Clark to Irving Park Road but instead of following Irving Park west to the Kennedy he turned south on Ashland and took that all the way south to the Eisenhower Expressway.
"I suspect that added at least 20 to 30 minutes to the ride given the amount of very slow-moving traffic on Ashland. Why the driver didn't just continue west on Irving Park to the Kennedy? It would have been simple to jump on the Kennedy/Addams/Tri-State and maybe shortened our ride home."
Pace's Patrick Wilmot responds, "The routing used to get back to Yorktown (mall in Lombard) has been in place for five years, and the travel time has generally been very consistent over the years. This routing avoids heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic on westbound Irving Park Road on game days, and similarly heavy traffic on I-90 toward O'Hare Airport.
"After the game, there's more of a traffic crunch on Irving Park, compounded by a bottleneck where Irving Park meets the Kennedy Expressway. Since there's an alternative for getting back to Yorktown via the Eisenhower Expressway, we've found that to be a far more consistent option. As with many sporting events, some people arrive earlier than others before the game, but everyone tends to leave around the same time after the game is over, and that makes a lot of the difference for how we route the trips to and from the games."
Marge Copson of Naperville wants to save her money for the grandkids, not the Illinois tollway.
"My husband and I have grandchildren in Davenport, Iowa," she wrote. "About once a month we meet our daughter at the DeKalb oasis on I-88 either to pick them up or give them back after a visit.
"Each time we are just going west to the oasis and then wanting to return going east. In order to do this, we must continue west to the next exit and pay an outrageous amount in tolls to turn around and go east. Why can't (the tollway) realize that sometimes people need to go back the way they came for various reasons? A simple solution would be to eliminate the curb separating the gas station so the driver can legally go whichever way they want."
The tollway's Wendy Abrams explains that "while we understand the concern about the ability to reverse directions at the DeKalb oasis, the tollway's top priority is to ensure safety on our roadways.
"The DeKalb oasis is unique from the other tollway oases in that it is located on one side of the roadway rather than on a bridge structure spanning the tollway. But, when it was built in the 1970s, the engineers determined that it should conform to the other oases which feature no turnarounds. Yes, it's frustrating to have to exit the roadway after leaving the oasis and get back on to head in the opposite direction, plus pay another toll, but it doesn't compare to the confusion and potential harm that a turnaround could cause for drivers.
"Oases are designed for travelers to make a convenient stop and continue on their journey. It's our job to provide them the safest option to get back on the roadway."
Short-lived ticket to ride
Metra commuter Matt Bugaj ended up with a 10-ride pass incorrectly stamped with a two-week expiration date. Ten-ride passes are good for a year, so he contacted the agency to complain. Bugaj received an email in response, telling him to exchange the ticket at Union Station and explain that it was improperly stamped.
"The first time I tried to exchange the ticket was (a Friday) at Union Station. I was told I need a receipt and a copy of the email. The following Monday I brought those with me to the city, and they did the exchange at Union Station," Bugaj wrote.
Metra spokesman Michael Gill said it appears the ticket agent used the wrong stamp -- a one-way ticket stamp. One-way tickets expire in two weeks.
While the agency responded "immediately" to Bugaj's complaint, the exchange "should have been a simple transaction. We apologize if it was not," Gill said.
Out of time
Another reader wondered, "Why are there no clocks in Terminal 1 at O'Hare International Airport? I would think that in a place where everything runs on a clocked schedule there would be clocks."
Yes, we have clocks, the Chicago Department of Aviation's Karen Pride responded, and sent along a picture of an arrivals board with the time in the upper, right-hand corner.
Jim Lentz of Wheaton is fed up with the Butterfield Road (Route 56) widening saga and a seemingly endless construction season.
"Day after day, in my area from Naperville Road to Winfield Road, there is little to no labor or materials activity. We figure the project could have been completed in 10 months," he wrote.
IDOT's Guy Tridgell replied that "the schedule for Route 56 was fairly typical for a widening project -- adding the new lanes the first year while traffic stays on the existing lanes, flipping the configuration the following year and shifting traffic to the new lanes so the old ones can be rebuilt."
"The challenge, of course, is finishing the work as quickly as possible while maintaining traffic flow on a major arterial route in the suburbs," he said.
"Illinois 56 is no exception, accommodating close to 25,000 vehicles a day between Naperville Road and Route 59. Likewise, there are three main intersections with Route 56 we are improving and modernizing as part of this project: Route 59, Winfield Road and Naperville Road. We needed to stagger the work at each one to minimize the impact to north-south traffic in the area."
My co-worker Kelly Vold wants to know what's snarling traffic on Algonquin Road near Route 53 in her hometown of Rolling Meadows.
According to IDOT, the workers are installing a new lighting system on Algonquin from east of Route 53 to west of Arlington Heights Road. The finish date is October for this $1.8 million project.
And Mitch Martin of Lisle is curious about all the construction near Yackley Avenue and I-88.
Turns out, Nicor is replacing a transmission pipeline and all work should be completed this fall.
Got a transportation question? Drop me a line at email@example.com
A regional transportation summit is set for 11:30 a.m. to 1:35 p.m. Tuesday in Elgin. The Transportation for Illinois Coalition, a business, labor and construction group, will host the discussion about infrastructure needs in the state with comments from IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider and tollway chief Kristi Lafleur. It's at Elgin Community College's Business and University Center, 1700 Spartan Drive. For more info, go to www.facebook.com/TFICIllinois.