Real-time traffic, alerts to go live on I-90 this summer

Jane Addams Tollway (I-90) drivers can expect those inscrutable black gantries towering over the roadway to get chatty this summer.

The Illinois tollway has completed installation and testing of 29 digital message signs between Barrington Road and O'Hare International Airport.

The displays will provide real-time traffic updates and safety advisories and direct drivers to shift lanes when crashes occur.

The system will go live around the end of July or early August, Chief Engineer Paul Kovacs said at a Wednesday committee meeting.

"All the construction is done and we've completed the testing so we know it's operational. Now we're training people who will be the ones responsible for the messages going up," Kovacs said.

The agency is adding seven employees to its traffic operations center, which will now run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, instead of just five days. The new positions will cost about $210,000 annually in salaries.

When a crash occurs, the system will shift traffic to avoid trouble spots, displaying green arrows for open lanes and red X's to indicate closed ones.

A larger message board on the far outside lanes will give updates on travel times, collisions and Amber Alerts.

The active transportation management system will cost about $33 million.

Pace is collaborating with the tollway and will be routing express buses on I-90 shoulder or "flex" lanes to be designated with digital signs.

"We expect to begin operating in the Flex Lane late this summer," said Pace spokeswoman Maggie Daly Skogsbakken, adding that bus operators were in training.

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