New leaders at the Illinois tollway plunged into business Thursday as administrators outlined plans to install gantries on a section of the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway next week that will eventually collect tolls.
Drivers won't be charged until summer 2016, but it's a physical sign of a major shift from a freeway to a tollway as the road is built east to O'Hare International Airport.
"We want to test the (electronic tolling) equipment thoroughly, but just because you're driving under a gantry doesn't mean you are paying a toll," Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said.
Eventually, it will cost $1.90 to travel a 10.5-mile stretch of the expressway (Route 390) from its terminus in Itasca to Route 83 when construction is complete at the end of 2017.
"It's very exciting to see this after all these years of planning," said Director Bob Schillerstrom, a Naperville attorney and former DuPage County chairman who spent years pushing for the project.
Schillerstrom is one of four new tollway directors announced last week by Gov. Bruce Rauner. Rauner also appointed Elk Grove Mayor Craig Johnson, banker Joseph Gomez of Northfield and Lake County Board member Nick Sauer.
The tollway is improving the existing Elgin-O'Hare, building new ramps connecting to I-290, as well as extending the road and adding interchanges.
The tolls are based on the distance traveled. Fees are about 20 cents a mile compared to elsewhere on the system where rates are typically 6 cents a mile. Construction of Route 390 and the bypass will cost about $3.4 billion.
Tolls will first be charged in summer 2016 on Route 390 between Lake Street and Meacham Road with gantries electronically collecting tolls of 30 cents just west of Gary Avenue, 35 cents west of Roselle Road and 60 cents west of Meacham/Medinah roads.
The appointees were chosen amid a politically charged atmosphere in Springfield. Rauner did not reappoint four directors chosen by former Gov. Pat Quinn, but all was harmonious in the boardroom.
Johnson praised administrators for collaborating with communities along the corridor on issues such as decorative facades on bridges and walls. "It sends a positive message," he said.
Gomez said his first meeting was "a model the rest of the state should follow," he said. "One of Gov. Rauner's goals is to bring more professionalism to the way state agencies are run."
"It's very humbling to be here and watch all the work going on throughout the tollway system," Sauer said.
The section of Route 390 from I-290 to Route 83 will be completed in 2017 with mainline gantries collecting tolls of 25 cents near Arlington Heights Road, 20 cents west of Wood Dale Road and 20 cents west of Route 83.
A section from Route 83 to O'Hare will be finished by 2019.
After objections from communities, the agency agreed to reduce proposed tolls from 25 cents to 20 cents at the Ketter Drive ramp. Overnight closures on Route 390 will occur in June while the gantries are installed.
Toll rates for the bypass road on the west side of O'Hare that will connect Route 390 with the Tri-State Tollway in Franklin Park and to the Jane Addams Tollway near Des Plaines have not been set.