Tollway's biggest workhorse due for a makeover
Anyone who's clenched the steering wheel as traffic crawls along to O'Hare on the central part of the Tri-State knows the tollway's most heavily used road needs a fix-up.
Now it appears, planners are looking beyond mere reconstruction to potentially adding another lane as well as new exits and entrances.
Illinois tollway directors Thursday talked about what's next for the section of I-294 that stretches 22 miles between 95th Street in the south suburbs to Balmoral Avenue in Rosemont.
Work is scheduled to start in 2020 with a budget of $1.7 billion that would cover rebuilding the road that brings in 20 percent of tollway revenues. The entire Tri-State generates 45 percent -- nearly half -- of the toll pie.
That $1.7 billion won't pay for widening but it's worth getting estimates, tollway Chairman Robert Schillerstrom said.
"If we want to add a lane, what will it cost?" he said. "What are our options? If it costs $2 billion, we want to know, if it costs $5 billion, we want to know."
Among the eccentricities of the Tri-State are long stretches of tollway that don't let drivers exit at key locations, such as North Avenue near Elmhurst.
Elk Grove Mayor and tollway Director Craig Johnson requested more information about exits and entrances. "We should make sure we're not just adding lanes but more access," he said.
Another idea could be introducing "managed lanes," where drivers pay more to use a designated express lane during rush hour.
Tollway officials also said they intend to cooperate with municipalities along the Central Tri-State on flood-relief projects.
Other plans include putting bike and pedestrian paths on any rebuilt bridges and working with transit agencies to incorporate possible bus routes.
The tollway has convened an advisory group of local mayors to guide the project. The group will offer a report in early 2016.