Bells and whistles make rebuilt Jane one smart cookie
This sucker has it all: A mother ship, diverging diamond, wireless speed sensors, dozens of cameras and weather stations. It will save time and money, and fuel the economy.
And, it's very smart.
I'm talking, of course, about the almost-finished 25-mile eastern stretch of the Jane Addams Tollway, two years and part of a $2.5 billion overhaul of the road from Rockford to the Kennedy Expressway.
As a user of the Addams, I've watched the progress with more than passing interest.
And as the project nears the finish line -- save for some landscaping and other touch-up work that likely will roll over into next year -- here's a little about the bells and whistles that were put into this 6- to 8-lane makeover:
• The "mother ship" is a mobile concrete crusher. As the former road surface was torn up, the chunks were sorted into big piles (remember them?), pulverized into 4-by-6-inch chunks, put on a conveyor, then crushed and used as the new road bed. Same deal with the asphalt. The result is a 13-inch-thick road surface and considerable savings of cost and time in lugging in new road materials while hauling away the old.
• A "diverging diamond" is a way to create a full-access interchange when you don't have sufficient land to build a traditional cloverleaf. This design -- almost too complicated to explain in my limited space, and, frankly, a little scary the first time you navigate it -- routes traffic in opposite directions across the bridge of the road spanning the tollway to eliminate left turns in accessing the toll road ramps. The first diamond in Illinois was built at the massively congested I-88 and Route 59 in Naperville. For the Addams, it will debut at Route 83/Elmhurst Road in Mount Prospect.
• The speed sensors, cameras and weather stations are all about making Jane the first smart road on the tollway system. As transportation writer Marni Pyke reported last month, the point is to provide drivers with real-time speed and accident info. My take-away is the effort to minimize the impact of the dreaded gaper's block. When a fender-bender closes a lane, red X's will appear on signs marking them, allowing drivers to move over, instead of cruising onto the scene and slamming on the brakes, prompting scores of others to do the same.
There's more, of course, so I pass along some other tollway authority propaganda, which I hope proves to be dead-on accurate.
• The typical driver will save 27 minutes traversing the revived roadway from Elgin to the Kennedy Expressway. The projected savings for drivers in gas and productivity costs is $440 million annually.
• The project creates "a potential economic investment" of up to $451 million; it will create as many as 11,500 new permanent jobs in the Chicago area.
• The first Park & Ride facilities to be constructed on the tollway system will allow drivers to leave their cars behind and catch busses at Randall Road and Route 25 near Elgin and Barrington Road.
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