Eisenhower toll idea meets skepticism

  • IDOT wants to fix a bottleneck on the Eisenhower Expressway between Hillside and Oak Park by creating tolled or carpool lanes.

      IDOT wants to fix a bottleneck on the Eisenhower Expressway between Hillside and Oak Park by creating tolled or carpool lanes. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/25/2017 9:06 PM

The Illinois Department of Transportation hopes to squeeze more lanes out of the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) to fix an infamous bottleneck, but there was skepticism about the solution at a Wednesday public hearing in Forest Park.

That's because IDOT planners wants drivers to pay for the $2.7 billion project with the help of tolls.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A draft plan recommends adding a lane in each direction of I-290 between Mannheim Road in the Hillside area and Austin Boulevard in Oak Park.

Carpools of three or more people would drive on the new lanes for free while vehicles with two or less occupants would pay a toll in exchange for a speedy trip of 45 mph or so.

Rates could vary from 12 cents to 24 cents a mile, with higher tolls at rush hour.

Drivers would have continuous access to the tolled lane, which made Byron Reed of Oak Park wonder: "How will that be policed?" .

Barbara Vanek was dubious about the carpool lane's success. As a longtime CTA Blue Line commuter between Oak Park and Chicago, she noted "there's not many cars with more than one person in them."

And when she recommends Eisenhower drivers take public transit, the response from co-workers is, "'Oh no, I want my time by myself,'" Vanek recounted.

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But John Kos of Wheaton, the former DuPage County transportation director, recently saw similar lanes in action in Washington, D.C., and said they "work great."

The Eisenhower bottleneck not only wastes time and fuel and increases smog, but its crash rates are higher than norms at regional highways, studies show.

IDOT would install the new pavement on the inside lanes. Planners estimate travel times could be reduced by 50 percent.

Comments on the draft environmental impact statement will be accepted until Feb. 13.

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