A difficult break up

Staggered work zones on I-90 in Illinois do more harm than good

Blog Entry May 19, 2014
Bill Wilson

Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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I haven’t seen anything flying overhead, but if there were it would generate quite a buzz. That’s because the speed violations would be many, and some controversial.


The Jane Addams Tollway (I-90) is currently under construction, and it is a route I take to work just about every morning. The Illinois Tollway is rebuilding and widening 62 miles as a 21st century, state-of-the-art corridor linking Rockford to O’Hare International Airport. I get on at Beverly Road and travel roughly six miles to Rte. 53. About a quarter of the way down the on ramp en route to I-90 stands a sign notifying motorists that there may be aircraft overhead monitoring speeds through the work zones. I certainly do not have an issue with that, but I question how these work areas have been set up.


There are about three official work zones on I-90 during my way to work, and they are staggered. You enter a work zone, reduce your speed, then exit, and then about a mile later there are another series of orange barrels and signs. About a mile after that it happens all over again.


What I do not quite understand is why the Illinois Tollway is allowing motorists to move back up to highway speeds in mile increments. It’s hard to keep track of it all. After the first work zone, I often catch myself traveling too fast during the early stages of the second, and then I have to make a sudden slowdown. Did the Illinois Tollway consider keeping the entire stretch in a work zone? I realize there are those who are of the mindset of getting traffic out of work areas as soon as possible, because drivers absolutely loathe the idea of having to take their foot off the gas pedal for any period of time. However, in this instance it makes sense to keep them locked in at 45 mph, at least for the six miles I travel on I-90. It certainly is safer on the workers. By the second work zone, most of the traffic is not even attempting to slow down. Why? There are a few reasons, but I think some of them quickly grow tired of the speed adjustment and just barrel through after playing the game once or twice, which is exactly the buzz we don’t want out on the road.

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