Tolls not keeping drivers off Route 390
They might flinch at the 20-cent-per-mile rates, but drivers still are using Route 390, Illinois' newest toll road.
In August, a month after the former Elgin-O'Hare Expressway converted to a tollway between Lake Street and I-290, 4.6 million transactions cha-chinged into the agency's coffers, according to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
It's 25 percent higher than the tollway estimated, and it brought in $2.9 million in tolls.
Just before the tollway began electronic tolling, numerous readers like Eileen Szubert vowed to boycott Route 390 and take local roads.
Asked if she's abstaining, Szubert, of Bartlett, said: "I am still boycotting. (I've) used it a couple of times due to a rush situation, but generally, Lake Street, Irving Park Road and Nerge Road are my usual back-road routes."
Others admitted to a love-hate relationship with the toll road.
"I must admit at times I avoid it -- unless I'm short on time or there's construction along Higgins and Golf, then I bite the bullet and pay my 60-cent toll," Jeff Markarian of Lake Zurich said.
The tollway is extending Route 390 along Thorndale Avenue; it's supposed to reach Route 83 in 2017 and O'Hare International Airport by 2019 or so. A ring road dubbed I-490 will connect with it and run along the airport's west side, linking with I-294 to the south near Franklin Park and I-90 near Des Plaines in the north.
Driver Bob Jacobson of Schaumburg was "definitely surprised that Elgin-O'Hare volume exceeds expectations. If revenue is higher than projected, can the fares be reduced?"
The short answer is "no," tollway Executive Director Greg Bedalov said. "The board goes through a formal process to approve toll rates."
"We anticipated people leaving the road. We're a little below previous numbers but above what we forecast," he said. "Every week more and more people are coming back to 390. ... The numbers are continuing to grow. As we march east and make it a more valuable part of the system, we anticipate the numbers will be higher."
In exchange for tolls, drivers are getting new ramps linking to I-290 and a seamless drive without stoplights, Bedalov said.
Typically, drivers need time to adjust to a new roadway, spokesman Dan Rozek said, but that wasn't the case with Route 390.
"We did not see the ramp-up we had anticipated, with traffic patterns and volumes remaining stable since the roadway opened," Rozek said. "This may be because the Route 390 generally replaced an existing expressway with established traffic patterns. "
You should know
When is my flight really leaving? The Chicago Department of Aviation is rolling out a tool that gives real-time information about flight delays and cancellations at O'Hare and Midway. The program shows flight problems within a two-hour period. For more info, go to FlyChicago.com/flightstatus.
IDOT is starting work on a flyover bridge connecting eastbound Jane Addams Tollway (I-90) drivers to Cumberland Avenue that's intended to reduce gridlock. Drivers can expect shoulder closures during the day and nighttime lane shutdowns.
Bridge construction will finish up by fall 2018.
Now that the tollway is wrapping up improvements to I-90, Joe Celosky of Hoffman Estates has two construction-related close calls to share. "I was eastbound to O'Hare in a heavy rain near the Des Plaines oasis where water had accumulated in the center lane next to the temporary barriers with no shoulder," he wrote. "My car hydroplaned, but fortunately it veered right so I missed the barrier."
A second time, Celosky encountered "heavy rain and puddles along the center barrier. I slowed down and moved to the center lane while a guy who had been tailgating me saw his chance and sped up to pass. He hydroplaned left into the barrier but fortunately kept control.
The moral here is construction crews need to do a better job of providing drainage when temporary lanes pitch toward the barriers, especially with no shoulder."
Stay safe this holiday
With Thanksgiving days away, don't forget to pick a designated driver over the holiday. The National Safety Council estimates 437 people could die in vehicle crashes and 50,300 may be seriously injured between 6 p.m. Wednesday and midnight Sunday. Motor vehicle deaths are 9 percent higher the first half of 2016 compared to 2015, reports indicate. Other tips to stay safe include: Get plenty of sleep, don't use a cellphone, and prevent teens from driving with siblings or friends. A young passenger increases a teen driver's fatal crash risk, the council states.
Got an I-90 war story? Love or hate the tolled Route 390? Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.