Ill. Tollway to study managed lanes and transit on I-90

FHWA pilot program targets solutions to reduce congestion and increase capacity

September 01, 2011

The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority has been awarded a $528,840 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to participate in a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) pilot program to study how to integrate transit with managed lanes on the I-90 corridor, including the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway. The grant will help further the Tollway’s efforts to reduce congestion on the corridor stretching from Rockford to Chicago, improve air quality and provide new choices for drivers.

The Tollway’s grant was among more than $16.9 million in grants for Illinois recently announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the FHWA, who received more than 1,800 applications totaling nearly $13 billion, more than 30 times the available funds, from every state, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

The FHWA’s pilot program encourages implementation and evaluation of projects to manage congestion on roadways through tolling and other pricing mechanisms. The program is limited to 15 slots. The Tollway will analyze the use of managed lanes to provide additional roadway capacity and choices for commuters. Managed lanes would be used to accommodate enhanced transit service and offer drivers who are willing to pay a premium, reliable travel times in an uncongested lane.

“This award shows that the U.S. Department of Transportation realizes that we, as a region, are showing a clear level of collaboration and long-term vision through the I-90 Corridor Planning Council and our partnership with the Regional Transportation Agency (RTA),” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur. “It underscores our commitment to identify real solutions to address congestion relief for drivers throughout the region using the I-90 corridor, including the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway.”

The grant announcement comes at the same time as the Illinois Tollway board of directors’ approval of a new 15-year, $12 billion capital plan, Move Illinois: The Illinois Tollway Driving the Future, which includes funding for the reconstruction and widening of the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) with accommodations for transit. Throughout the past year and a half, the Tollway board reviewed the Tollway’s existing system needs, as well as additional projects the Tollway could play a role in and identified improvements to the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway as the agency’s top priority.

“The Tollway board committed to a plan that will reconstruct the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway as a 21st century, state-of-the-art corridor linking Rockford to O’Hare Airport,” said Tollway board Chair Paula Wolff. “Faced with the reality that we can no longer build our way out of congestion, we are grateful for this grant and cooperation from our transit and planning-agency partners to help work together to identify the best solutions to face the region’s transportation challenges.”

Earlier this year, the Tollway and the RTA partnered to study design options and determine costs to implement managed lanes with expanded transit service on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway. Funds from the FHWA grant will expand the study to include the I-90 corridor and identify how to integrate transit to best meet the needs of commuters along the corridor.

The FHWA grant will allow the Tollway to model how transit service can operate with roadway traffic and where transit stations can be accommodated along the corridor, identify how future infrastructure needed to support transit service can be funded and survey commuters to determine travel habits, demand for transit and pricing strategies.

In addition, the results of this research will be used by the Tollway’s I-90 Corridor Planning Council formed in May to further its assessment of how to combine the reconstruction and widening of the Tollway’s portion of I-90 with opportunities to reduce congestion and increase environmentally sound transportation options. The council will be able to use the results of the Tollway’s study to identify options for the best way to build a state-of-the-art corridor that accommodates the needs of Tollway drivers and transit users from Rockford to Chicago.

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