Tollway sensors? No documents? We answer your transportation questions

Jeff Pyrn doesn't miss a trick when driving on the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway (Route 390).

“Why are there two toll sensor structures about one mile apart near Roselle Road for both westbound as well as eastbound (lanes)?” the Arlington Heights resident asked, wondering if the Illinois tollway is “planning on monitoring for speeders?”

We'll answer Jeff's question as well as others in this week's reader-centric column.

First, the sensors. Could they be mind-control devices? I asked tollway spokeswoman Joelle McGinnis.

No, McGinnis explained, nor is any speed-tracking equipment involved. Instead, “tolling equipment is mounted on both the over-the-road structures (tolling gantries) in each direction at toll collection locations on Route 390.”

For the record, Route 390 is free, but tolls start this summer between Lake Street and I-290.

Route 390 is the agency's first, all-electronic roadway in the system, meaning no buckets and no human collectors.

“So, in addition to supporting the I-PASS transponder readers, cameras are mounted on the over-the-road structures to capture license plate images. Cameras on the first gantry capture images of the back plate and cameras on the second gantry capture plate images of the front plate. If a transponder is detected, those images are thrown away,” she said.

“There is also equipment embedded in the pavement that counts axles so that the correct vehicle classification is captured to trigger the correct toll amount.”

Shifting gears, reader Emilie Miller wanted to know if she can show up at an Illinois vehicle emissions testing station document-free? It's a good question, given that the state has stopped mailing reminders.

“I understand, of course, that we will not be sent the paperwork, but what is a person supposed to do when she drives to the emission testing center WITHOUT the paperwork? Just tell the tester that my vehicle is a 2012 Chevy and that it needs to be tested?” Miller wondered.

She also noted, that she has “registered online to have a reminder sent to me when the time comes for applying for a new (vehicle) sticker, and it would be nice to know that this is ALL I have to do to get a new sticker. It's not clear, however, just where and/or how one is supposed to get the new sticker — through the mail (or) a driver's license facility?”

To the first question, Illinois secretary of state's office spokesman Dave Druker explained that drivers can show up without paperwork to take the emissions test. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency forwards the information to the secretary of state.

And to the second question, “the electronic notices should come well in advance of the plate expiration date,” Druker said. “One can renew online, by phone, or go to one of our offices. If you go to one of the secretary of state offices, bring your license plate number and your driver's license to show who you are, and you can renew the registration there.”

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On another issue, retiree Marty Krogh of Ingleside was happy to receive a new RTA Reduced Fare Permit card in the mail but flummoxed by the accompanying letter saying he could be subject to a $5 a month dormancy fee if it wasn't used on the CTA or Pace within 18 months.

Since Krogh only uses his permit card on Metra, he asked “how the RTA would know when we used the Reduced Fare Permit card since it is not swiped or recorded when a Metra ticket is purchased?”

No worries, Regional Transportation Authority spokeswoman Susan Massel said.

Since Krogh and his wife “don't use the permits to ride Pace or CTA, I'd assume they have no reason to load value on the card. If there's a zero balance on the card, they won't be assessed a dormancy fee,” she responded.

One more thing

Lisle reader John Sanderson had this say about last week's column noting that 7 percent of light vehicles (cars, SUVs and vans) fail emissions tests.

“Statistically I'm sure you are correct,” he wrote. “I recently had my car checked and waited in line for about 15 to 20 minutes idling with approximately 25 other cars. Do you take into consideration the amount of emissions expelled in getting to the testing station as well as the waiting? How about the emissions expelled by the workers getting to and from the stations? We should look at all of this before making a judgment.”

Got a comment, question or opinion? Of course you do. Drop me an email at

Gridlock alert

Jane Addams Tollway (I-90) drivers gain a ramp and lose a ramp this month at the Route 31 interchange. As part of the I-90 rebuild, the tollway has reopened the ramp from the westbound Addams to southbound Route 31. But in mid-April, the ramp from southbound Route 31 to eastbound I-90 and (stay with me) the ramp from eastbound I-90 to northbound Route 31 will close. Hang in there.

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