Tollway wants to transform turf into forests

  • The Illinois tollway intends to transform ho-hum interchange landscaping with trees and shrubs.

    The Illinois tollway intends to transform ho-hum interchange landscaping with trees and shrubs. Daily Herald File Photo

Updated 11/13/2017 5:51 PM

Serene vistas of oaks and lilacs instead of grassy, mono-landscaping are envisioned under an Illinois tollway plan to plant 58,000 trees and shrubs along the system at a cost of about $20 million.

Board directors at a committee meeting Monday adopted a resolution for a systemwide landscape plan.


"The tollway is one of the major landowners in the state ... and there is a fair amount of land available for trees," Chairman Robert Schillerstrom said.

The agency is still finalizing details, so the $20.8 million is an approximate figure that includes buying, planting and maintaining the trees, spokesman Dan Rozek said.

While endorsing the concept, Director and Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson cautioned "the price per tree -- for the size you're getting -- it's outrageous."

Johnson helped spearheaded a program to replace ash trees felled by the emerald ash borer in Elk Grove Village and noted, "I love the (tollway) program, I love the idea ... it's just some details that I question."

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The master plan requires another vote by the full board Nov. 29.

The tollway would collaborate with The Morton Arboretum to pick species that can flourish near roadways. The project would not only beautify the region, it would stabilize soil, filter stormwater, prevent snow drifting onto the road, and help reduce air and noise pollution, officials said.

"We'll work with the arboretum as far as the best way to go about creating opportunities for trees to thrive," Schillerstrom said.

Trees in the program would include oaks, elms, buckeyes, locusts, spruces, pines and Kentucky coffee trees, and shrubs including lilacs and viburnums.

The 58,000 number represents 1,000 trees or shrubs for each year of the tollway's existence. The plants would be placed across 12 counties along 294 miles of road within three years.

The estimated price could change as the program advances and the tollway refines the specifics of where and how the trees are planted, Rozek said.

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