TRAFFIC CONTROL: Smart highway coming to Illinois Tollway by 2016

Overhead signs will regulate traffic flow; system can also be used by transit, automated vehicles

February 26, 2014

Officials with the Illinois Tollway announced plans this week to implement an advanced traffic management (ATM) system over 16 miles of I-90 through Chicago’s northwest suburbs by 2016. The agency said the infrastructure installed for this project could contribute to other traffic-management efforts in the future.

As imagined, the system would consist of sensors relaying traffic information to overhead signs posted every half-mile. The signs would display red and green signals over each lane indicating the condition of that lane; drivers would be advised of any accidents or breakdowns closing off lanes and safe speeds to react accordingly.

The overhead signs will also be used to denote new mass transit lanes—established via a partnership between the Illinois Tollway and Pace—serving various park-and-ride lots and the CTA Blue Line station in suburban Rosemont.

Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said the ATM system will carry an expected price tag of $17.8 million, plus $758,000 a year for maintenance and monitoring.

The Tollway has plans in place for a smaller-scale version of the system on the Edens Expressway and the northern portion of U.S. 41, also scheduled to debut in 2016.

According to Tollway officials, the fiber optic infrastructure to be used for the ATM system can also be utilized with future traffic-management technology, including automated vehicles.