A new paramedic response agreement between four towns for handling accidents on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) through Schaumburg is successfully overcoming the obstacle to emergency vehicles created by a concrete barrier built as part of the recent improvements, Schaumburg Fire Chief David Schumann said.
That barrier -- dubbed the "chute" by local firefighters -- divides the local and express lanes of westbound I-90 for about a mile or so from Route 53 to just west of Meacham Road.
Because there are no gaps in that or any other wall along the tollway for emergency vehicles to change lanes or direction, the nearest entrance ramp to access all lanes is at Arlington Heights Road to the east.
And under the new agreement, Arlington Heights firefighters are simultaneously responding from there to accidents in the problematic area.
"I think this is the solution that best deals with the situation," Schumann said. "We've come a long way in the last year."
With the end of construction, the number of accidents on the tollway has been greatly reduced and the new agreement hasn't caused any problems for the Arlington Heights Fire Department, Deputy Chief of Operations Pete Ahlman said.
The agreement also asks Rolling Meadows firefighters to cover the ramp from southbound Route 53 to westbound I-90, and for Hoffman Estates to respond on eastbound I-90 from Barrington Road to Roselle Road.
Hoffman Estates Fire Chief Jeff Jorian said the agreement adds only a little bit more to his department's area of response and hasn't affected operations at all.
All three department leaders said the multi-department agreement on how best to get emergency equipment to accident scenes returns the biggest issue on the tollway to motorists reporting accidents while unsure of exactly where they are.
That's part of the reason why Schaumburg and Arlington Heights personnel will be simultaneously dispatched to accidents in and around the chute, Schumann said.
While the chute did create a tricky situation, most of the improvements on the tollway -- including new interchange ramps at Meacham and Roselle roads -- are providing clear benefits, he added.
"Generally, I applaud the tollway for the changes they've made," Schumann said.