Meacham, Roselle ramps open on Addams tollway; what work is left?

Illinois tollway leaders opened up ramps on two key Jane Addams Tollway interchanges Friday as they race to keep their promise of finishing a massive project by the end of 2016 that has kept drivers simmering.

The I-90 mainline between the Elgin Toll Plaza and Tri-State Tollway will be widened to four lanes in each direction, and multiple interchanges will be improved by Dec. 31, officials said Friday in Schaumburg before activating completed ramps at Meacham and Roselle roads. That will all but complete a project that has knotted traffic since it began in 2013.

Commuters will have to wait until 2017 for a “smart” corridor to be activated with overhead traffic signals and alerts, and some work remains on interchanges at Barrington and Roselle roads.

Also coming soon is a game-changing system of express buses that will transport riders between park-and-ride lots along I-90 to CTA and Pace terminals in the suburbs.

“It going to be great for Rockford and communities out west here to have access to job markets in places like this (Schaumburg),” tollway Chairman Robert Schillerstrom said. “The fact we'll be innovative with smart-road technology is exciting, too.”

The $2.5 billion, 62-mile I-90 rebuild and widening, which includes a completed stretch between Rockford and Elgin, is being funded with a toll increase instituted in 2012.

The project has been excruciating for drivers who've endured traffic jams, dust storms and loop-the-loop improvised ramps and lane shifts for years. The angst felt by thousands is why the agency is picking up the pace, approving a $490,064 contract with Parsons Brinkerhoff Inc. engineers Thursday for additional oversight necessitated by an accelerated schedule.

“We know when we don't open the road we lose revenue, we lose customers, so it was an investment to make sure we finish the project on time and on budget,” Executive Director Greg Bedalov said.

Here's a look at what's at stake for the estimated 400,000 vehicles that travel the corridor daily.

Thumb's up

• In spring 2017, 29 overhead gantries equipped with digital signs between O'Hare and Barrington Road will go live. The signs will provide speed and accident information in real time, direct drivers to certain lanes or detours, and give Amber Alerts.

• Also coming in 2017 are three new Pace express routes along I-90 and three park-and-rides in Elgin at Randall Road and Route 25, and at Barrington Road in Hoffman Estates. The buses will use the shoulders when traffic is backed up.

• In addition to widening the mainline, new interchanges are being added or updated from the traditional to-and-from Chicago configuration. That includes a full interchange at Elmhurst Road with a “diverging-diamond” traffic system. Typical rates at tolled ramps are 45 cents for I-PASS customers in cars, but the Elmhurst Road fee is 55 cents.

Fingers drumming

• Some work still remains on the Roselle Road interchange, where a westbound I-90 on-ramp will be built by Cook County in 2017. Reconstruction of the eastbound on-ramp and westbound off-ramp is done and a new eastbound off-ramp opened Friday.

• At the Barrington Road interchange, a rebuild of the existing eastbound on- and westbound off-ramps is finished. A new westbound on-ramp will wrap up by the end of the year, and an eastbound off-ramp will be completed in 2017.

Opening up access to Schaumburg is a huge economic boost for the area and relieves traffic on local roads, Schaumburg's Transportation Director Karyn Robles said.

“Right now, it's so circuitous to get where you need to be. We had no access at Meacham and really limited access at Roselle. This will give people much more direct routes to their destinations.”

Brows furrowed

• Despite the upgrades, the problematic nexus of I-290/Route 53 and I-90 is status quo. The interchanges give drivers little time to merge, but a redo would cost about half a billion dollars. It's also under the purview of IDOT and the Federal Highway Administration.

Schillerstrom said he hopes the tollway and IDOT can collaborate. “It's complicated because of the law and our trust indentures. But we want to tear down the silos; we want to work with these other agencies. The governor wants us to work together and we are prepared to work together.”

• When the four lanes of the Jane Addams reach the Kennedy Expressway this year there will be no spanking new pavement to greet them — yet. The good news is the Illinois Department of Transportation started work last week on a flyover bridge connecting eastbound Addams traffic to Cumberland Avenue that will ease congestion. And IDOT intends to widen the Kennedy eastbound by one lane from Cumberland to Harlem Avenue.

Extra costs add up in tollway construction projects

Tollway: Bridge disaster won't hinder I-90 completion this year

IDOT's new spending plan includes widening eastbound Kennedy

Elgin-O'Hare Expressway tolls start July 5

Lee Street ramp for eastbound I-90 drivers coming in 2017

Tollway's 'mother ship' chews up concrete, spits out savings on I-90

How tollway's 'smart road' could make your commute easier

  A Pace bus is the first vehicle using a new Meacham Road exit from the Jane Addams Tollway. Bob Chwedyk/
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