Schillerstrom op-ed: What happens when we build a road

  • Tollway officials say the work building roads and bridges means more than enabling travel from point A to point B

    Tollway officials say the work building roads and bridges means more than enabling travel from point A to point B Daily Herald/File

By Bob Schillerstrom
Tollway chairman
Updated 7/16/2018 3:58 PM

Chicagoland's roadway network serves as an invaluable link between the region's industries and the global supply chain by connecting to railroads, waterways and airports, providing access to marketplaces around the world. At the Illinois Tollway, we know an efficient transportation system is why families choose to stay and why businesses choose to work here, and that is why everything we do is with our partners and regional solutions in mind.

Our tollway team believes that investing in the future of Illinois is our duty, that our work building roads and bridges means much more than enabling travel from point A to point B. As the state of Illinois reflects on its past and celebrates our bicentennial, it's hard to overlook the advantages our transportation network and infrastructure have afforded us. It has prompted us to ask the question: What really happens when we build a road?


The tollway's investments in the regional transportation system are creating access to employment and economic opportunities. Our 15-year, $14-billion Move Illinois capital program has the potential to create as many as 120,000 jobs and provides an essential foundation for manufacturing, cargo, warehousing and logistic businesses to flourish --- meaning jobs for working families and an enormous economic impact for communities.

Through a unique partnership with Pace, we are incorporating Flex Lanes in many of our projects so riders who live and work along our corridors can bypass traffic on a bus with the ability to ride on the inside shoulder during times of congestion. This investment makes it easier for our customers to use our roadway today --- whether by car or by bus --- and enables flexibility for the future.

While we can't control the future of new technology, we can make sure our roads are ready. Our corridors will integrate Intelligent Transportation Systems that are compatible with emerging in-vehicle technology. The car of tomorrow will be able to communicate with the road users through this communications backbone we are providing today.

We have partnered with the Morton Arboretum to develop a program that will add 58,000 trees along tollway corridors --- 1,000 for every year the Tollway system has been in existence. This partnership will increase environmental sustainability, control snow drift and improve overall beautification of the region. The tollway is incorporating sustainability in everything we do, from early planning, through project design and construction, all the way to operations and maintenance.

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We are not only investing in infrastructure; we are investing in those who design and build our infrastructure. With the leadership of Gov. Bruce Rauner and our board, the tollway's efforts are influencing change, as we work to identify and break down the barriers to participation that minorities, women and veterans face every day. We are providing individuals and businesses the tools to succeed, including training, technical assistance, mentoring and for entrepreneurs, we are working to identify access to capital opportunities, so they can invest and grow.

When we build a road, we are committed to not only being a world leader in tolling, but a change agent that will make our state a better place to live, work and raise a family, and keep it as the transportation center of America.

Bob Schillerstrom is chairman of the Illinois Toll Highway Authority.

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