The first vehicles recently drove through the non-stop Open Road Tolling (ORT) lanes at the new DeKalb Toll Plaza on the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88) as Tollway and local officials watched from the new overhead employee walkway. With ORT lanes at the new Dixon Toll Plaza scheduled to open by Friday, Aug. 18, there will be a total of 16 mainline toll plazas systemwide with non-stop tolling so drivers with I-PASS no longer have to slow down or stop at tollbooths.
The DeKalb and Dixon plazas are the first toll plazas to open with new buildings and overhead walkways for use by employees. The current plazas are deactivated when the new plazas open. To accommodate ORT and ease congestion in the area, the new DeKalb plaza is located between Shabbona and University roads, just five miles west of the former plaza, which remains a work zone as construction begins to dismantle it.
The new Dixon plaza is located three miles east of the former plaza and will open on Thursday, Aug. 17. Drivers with I-PASS will be able to use any of the three new tollbooth lanes while final testing is completed on the ORT lanes. Beginning Friday morning, two ORT lanes will be available for non-stop toll collection for I-PASS users.
The nearby Annie Glidden Road ramp is scheduled to reopen by Friday, ahead of move-in day for students at Northern Illinois University (NIU). Representatives from NIU were at the event to express their support for the improvements and appreciation for the fact that they were done in time for the new school year.
McPartlin told event attendees gathered at the new DeKalb plaza that with new ORT lanes, area residents will benefit from reduced travel times and reduced congestion during peak travel periods when drivers converge on this stretch of the Reagan Memorial Tollway for events such as NIU move-in day or university football games.
"DeKalb, Dixon and the other nearby communities rely on the Illinois Tollway for economic growth as well as quick, convenient travel," said McPartlin. "Open Road Tolling lanes in DeKalb and Dixon are going to allow local folks to get where they need to go more conveniently year round, and reduce backups for people heading to NIU."
Illinois is the first state in the nation to convert a barrier toll plaza system to the new ORT technology and the work is being done at a record pace. With the addition of the DeKalb and Dixon toll plazas, ORT lanes are now available at 16 plazas: Edens Spur (I-94); Boughton Road and Army Trail Road (I-355); Aurora, DeKalb and Dixon (I-88); Belvidere, Marengo, Devon Road and River Road (I-90); and Irving Park Road, Cermak Road, Touhy Avenue, 82nd Street, 83rd Street and 163rd Street (I-294).
"ORT lanes are already reducing Tollway travel times for drivers with I-PASS an average of 10 minutes one-way, and drivers will now enjoy the same congestion relief at the DeKalb and Dixon toll plazas," Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said. "Improving the area's toll plazas and Tollway roads to reduce traffic congestion is a major step in my efforts to make this region more accessible for local residents, commercial traffic and the university community."
ORT is an important part of Gov. Blagojevich's $5.3 billion congestion-relief program, Open Roads for a Faster Future, which will reduce travel times by also restoring most of the system, adding lanes to many miles of existing roads and building the I-355 South Extension into Will County.
Gov. Blagojevich's plan also included the largest continuous rubblization project in the nation on I-88, which stretched 32 miles from just west of DeKalb, through Dixon, to the west end of the Tollway. This rehabilitation in 2005 took only five months by using a rubblizer to break existing concrete pavement slabs into smaller pieces, which then became an aggregate foundation for the new road surface. The process saved time and money by eliminating the need to remove and haul away old pavement and transport new material to the site.