Tollway looking for consensus on Tri-State fix

  • The central Tri-State stretches from 95th Street to O'Hare International Airport.

      The central Tri-State stretches from 95th Street to O'Hare International Airport. George LeClaire | Staff Photographer, August 2012

Updated 5/21/2015 6:03 PM

Five lanes? Wider shoulders? Express lanes?

As they eye improvements on the central Tri-State (I-294), Illinois tollway planners are seeking ideas from nearby communities and others to create a "vision" that could include widening the corridor.


The 22-mile section of the Tri-State Tollway between 95th Street and Balmoral Avenue is so heavily used it generates 19 percent of the agency's toll revenue.

"It's a workhorse for the tollway system," Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said at a meeting Thursday. "It's got a tremendous amount of traffic particularly at peak travel times."

Tollway planners hope to assemble an advisory group of up to 30 members that convenes in July and comes up with a blueprint for the corridor by late 2015 or early 2016.

Ideas include reconstructing the corridor with four lanes but also widening the shoulders and inside lanes, adding a fifth lane in both directions, or adding a fifth lane only in congested areas.

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"Do we want to add capacity? Are there things we can do with technology to leverage capacity? The planning work we're going to do will really help us, so when we do make these investments they're investments for a 20-year future," Lafleur said.

About $1.9 billion is budgeted for the project in the tollway's current 15-year construction program. That will pay to rebuild the existing section but it doesn't include sufficient funds for five lanes. Answers to funding questions will depend on what the final plan is and how much it costs, officials said.

There's not a lot of land available to expand, which is why planners will have to be creative, officials said. One solution to maximize space could be express or reversible lanes.

The tollway also will look at using technology with cameras and digital signs to warn drivers about upcoming accidents or lane shifts.

Likely members of the advisory group include villages, transportation agencies, chambers of commerce and representatives from O'Hare International Airport, plus the shipping, trucking and railroad industries.

There's a lot of interest from communities along the corridor, Deputy Chief of Engineering for Planning Rocco Zucchero said. Some towns are seeking help with flooding, while others are looking for new interchanges.

"It's not an easy project ... but we want consensus," he said.

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