It's smooth sailing for now as road projects end
After years of dust, noise, massive backups and closed ramps, drivers in the Chicago area are getting what they paid for.
It's nearly driving nirvana on Route 390, the former Elgin-O'Hare Expressway, with no more stop lights and traffic flowing on that I-290 overpass that looked like a child's Erector set when it began to take shape three years ago.
On I-90, new ramps opened last week at Meacham and Roselle roads and workers are removing orange barrels that endlessly confused drivers as traffic patterns shifted. That widening and rebuilding project, started in 2013, is down to the finishing touches, which will be completed in 2017.
Of course, none of that came for free. Tolls across the tollway system nearly doubled in 2012 to pay for I-90 work, among other projects.
Route 390 was converted from a freeway to a 20-cents-a-mile tollway in July. That's far higher than the 6 cents elsewhere on the tollway system. But drivers apparently are buying it, senior writer Marni Pyke wrote on Monday, pointing out that use was higher than projected in August.
Perhaps we shouldn't get too used to our construction-free commutes, what with major new projects under way in the Chicago area and talk of big infrastructure plans on both the state and federal levels.
Voters this month approved a new Illinois constitutional amendment forcing lawmakers to use funds such as motor fuel taxes and license plate fees solely for transportation, prompting some to call for a statewide capital construction bill for the first time in years.
Donald Trump touts an infrastructure plan for roads, airports, pipelines and more, mainly based on tax incentives for private investors who back projects.
It's hard to say how all that will work out. If those capital plans ever come to fruition, we hope some of that money will go to public transit, with a goal of getting us off all those roads.
Meanwhile, as the work nears completion, the Illinois tollway deserves credit for efficient completion of the monumental Route 390 and I-90 projects. Even as many commuters are enjoying smooth sailing on our smooth new roads, another project that will change how people travel around the suburbs is gearing up.
That bypass around the western edge of O'Hare International Airport will link I-90, Route 390 and I-294, and drivers once again might have to show a little bit of patience.
The road's completion date? It's 2025.