Just Passing Through
Just Passing Through
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Just Passing Through
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Open Road Tolling has worked to ease traffic congestion in Chicago. The conversion of 20 toll plazas in less than two years required intense coordination among team members to expedite the concept, design, big and construction processes.

The conversion to an Open Road Tolling (ORT) system has eased traffic congestion in Chicago.

Area commuters report an average time savings of 10 minutes each way — the result of time not spent in congested traffic or slowing down to pay tolls. Approximately 80 percent of daily drivers now use I-PASS to pay their tolls, among the highest use rate of U.S. tollways.

The ORT system, part of the Tollway’s 10-year, $5.3 billion congestion-relief plan, made barrier-free travel possible for many of the 1.3 million drivers who use the Tollway each day. Drivers paying with cash are separated from high-speed traffic, preventing bottlenecks and backups at toll plazas.

The design of individual toll plazas became a key component of making the ORT system a success. As part of the team of consultants studying plaza geometries and traffic analyses,

Burns & McDonnell led a two-part charrette process to develop and refine the conceptual design for the plazas.

The conversion of the 20 toll plazas in less than two years required intense coordination among all team members and the Tollway staff to expedite the concept, design, bid and construction processes.

“As design project manager, Burns & McDonnell oversaw 20 projects simultaneously,” says Mike Folta, Burns & McDonnell project director. “The charrette process, followed by frequent technical group meetings, provided a venue for getting the best ideas incorporated into the process early and made it possible to address potential scheduling issues early. The team was also able to move construction forward even while design details were being finalized.”

For more information, contact Mike Folta, 630-724-3227.

1. Building Prototype

Accommodation of full mainline section and peak cash demand made many plaza footprints wider. Prototype building designs made it possible to keep plaza building footprints within the existing right-of-way to avoid acquisition issues and expedite the project schedule. The concept also had to factor in necessary storage space and room for employee tasks.

2. Cash Handling

The prototype conceptual design generated by the charrette process incorporated traffic analyses that determined the number of cash payment lanes required in the final configuration, as well as during each stage of construction.

3. Overhead Walkway

The design included an overhead walkway to connect the bi-directional tolling plaza, evaluated and determined during the charrette to be an expedient and cost-effective means to establish plaza operations. Walkways replaced the tunnel connections used at barrier plazas.

4. LEED® Considerations

Plaza designs needed to be efficient and flexible, but they also needed to include elements of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) rating system. Energy efficient materials, rooftop solar panels and plentiful windows for use of available daylight were incorporated where possible. Open Road Tolling also reduces noise and emissions by minimizing stopping traffic and delays at plazas.

5. Open Road Tolling Lanes

Traffic flow analyses led to complete separation of traffic using the electronic I-PASS to pay tolls. High-speed lanes will allow cars to avoid slowing at the toll plazas, resulting in fewer bottlenecks, improved safety and less overall congestion on the heaviest commuter routes.

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