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IDOT Considers Adding Quick-Toll Lanes To Chicago Expressways

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Chicago's infamous Circle Interchange. (CBS)

Chicago’s infamous Circle Interchange. (CBS)

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(CBS) — The Illinois Department of Transportation’s planned $375 million overhaul of the congested Circle Interchange will be designed for the possibility of some new lanes — and maybe even a toll of sorts on Chicagoland expressways.

IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider said Monday her agency has asked engineers who are considering the rebuilding of the Circle Interchange — where the Eisenhower, Dan Ryan and Kennedy converge — to design the ramps with so-called managed lanes, or “high-occupancy” lanes.

“We can’t toll existing facilities, so we wouldn’t toll existing facilities,” she explained at an appearance at the City Club of Chicago. “When I say that we’re designing it so that it could accommodate a managed-lane concept, it means that we’re designing it in a way where we could add lanes that would then become those potential toll-managed lanes.”

What does the concept mean?

“On a high-occupancy vehicle lane, it’s set aside for vehicles with more than one passenger. Vehicles that carry two, three or four passengers would be able to use that lane. High occupancy toll lane is the same concept, only if you’re willing to pay a toll, you can also join the high-occupancy vehicles on that lane of traffic,” Schneider said.

Yes, she said toll lanes, and these are only possibilities. But Schneider says the thinking is someday there could be high-occupancy lanes on the Eisenhower, Ryan or the Kennedy, and the Circle needs to be ready “as part of a bigger system of those lanes on the expressways.”

CBS 2’s Mike Parker spoke with some motorists who were opposed to the toll idea.

“The average Chicagoan is still reeling behind the parking meter situation, paying excess money for even parking on the lakefront,”  Rudy Harper said at a South Loop gas station.

“Chicago has enough tolls as it is,” Another driver, Joe Morelli, said.

But Gloria Najera said she could accept the idea.

“I want to get in the city as fast as possible and out as fast as possible. If I have to pay a little extra, I don’t mind,” she said.

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