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posted: 9/21/2012 5:30 AM

Tollway customer service contract would aid the visually impaired

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The Illinois tollway is turning to a nonprofit group to operate its customer service center where most customers turn to for information about I-PASS accounts and missed tolls.

Directors on the agency's Customer Service committee Thursday approved a five-year, $61.5 million contract with the Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired.

Chicago Lighthouse is expected to take over customer service center operations next year. Duties will include handling about 8,000 calls a day from people with questions on I-PASS usage, accounts, payments and violation notices.

The contract should create 200 jobs. Those with visual impairments have an unemployment rate of 75 percent and the tollway collaboration should open doors for an underserved population, Lighthouse President Janet Szlyk said in a statement.

Chicago Lighthouse "does call center work which is one of the reasons they were selected ... we think we're going to get a high quality level of employees," tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said.

Directors also approved a six-month, $5.3 million extension of a contract with TransCore, the company currently operating the call center.

The tollway will move the call center from its current space in Lisle to a facility on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago. This allows for room to expand as call center operations are expected to grow when the tollway completes the extension of the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway east to the airport.

The committee decision will be voted on by the full board next Thursday.

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