Illinois Department of Transportation, Ann L. Schneider, Secretary
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 11, 2007


Contact:

Abby Ottenhoff 312/814-3158
Joelle McGinnis (Tollway) 630/241-6800 ext. 2380
Jessica Woodward (IDVA) 312/814-8194

Governor Blagojevich Celebrates Illinois Tollway’s Completion of I-355 South Extension, Significantly Reducing Travel Times and Improving Commutes in Fastest Growing Suburbs

Veterans Day ceremony dedicates entire roadway from Army Trail Road to I-80 as Veterans Memorial Tollway

LEMONT– Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today made good on a promise that he and Illinois Tollway leaders made three years ago – reduce local congestion in Will County and create direct access to the greater Chicagoland area.  State officials joined in a community celebration, cutting a ribbon to mark completion of the 12.5 mile, I-355 South Extension and making way for the long-awaited roadway to open for traffic tomorrow, Nov. 12.

In addition, the Governor, along with Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth, and Illinois Tollway Board Chairman John Mitola and Executive Director Brian McPartlin, presided over a stirring patriotic tribute to all Illinois’ veterans as the entire length of I-355 was dedicated as the Veterans Memorial Tollway.

“When the Tollway system was created nearly 50 years ago, it was all about moving people from one place to another faster. But unfortunately, over the years the system strayed from that mission,” said Governor Blagojevich.  “Now, thanks to the reforms implemented by the leadership team and the agency’s commitment to the $6.3 billion Congestion-Relief Program, the Illinois Tollway is definitively back in the business of making it easier and quicker for people to get where they want to go. Completing systemwide Open Road Tolling last year and now the I-355 South Extension this year are evidence that customers’ needs once again come first.”

The I-355 South Extension Grand Opening and Dedication Ceremony came at the end of day-long festivities on the roadway that brought thousands of biking enthusiasts, veterans’ supporters and Will County residents together on the roadway to celebrate the new toll road built from I-55 to I-80 and recognize the men and women who serve in the armed services.

“Now known as the Veterans Memorial Tollway, the entire 30-miles of I-355 will serve as a daily salute,” said Illinois Tollway Board Chairman John Mitola. “The Veterans Memorial Tollway will be a constant reminder of the sacrifice and dedication that members of the armed services have given for our country. It will remind us to hold dear the right to democracy and freedom.”

The celebration of the new roadway and Illinois’ veterans began with “Roll the Tollway,” a Chicagoland Bicycle Federation-sponsored event that offered more than 5,000 adult and youth bike riders the unique experience of riding on an interstate toll road before it opens to vehicle traffic. The event also served as a fundraiser for a new multi-use trail that will run the length of the roadway. In addition, SALUTE, Inc., an Arlington Heights-based non-profit organization, hosted the Veterans Memorial Tollway 5K Run/Walk/Roll bringing together more than 2,000 participants to help raise funds for active military personnel and their families. 

In addition, communities surrounding Veterans Memorial Tollway – Will County, Lockport, Homer Glen, Lemont, and New Lenox – all joined the Tollway to celebrate by holding their own local festivals throughout the day on the new toll road.

I-355 South Extension Opens to Traffic on November 12

The new 12.5 miles of the Veterans Memorial Tollway will be open to traffic in time for the morning commute on Nov. 12.   The $730 million construction project began in late 2007 and will be completed on budget and ahead of schedule.  Extending I-355 from its current terminus at I-55, south to I-80 through DuPage, Will and southern Cook County, the new road promises residents immediate reductions in travel time.

“The new I-355 South Extension is connecting Will County to jobs and providing opportunity for new development,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Brian McPartlin. “But most importantly it will take people where they want to go quickly and efficiently and help people get back time – time to spend with their families and time to do things that are important to them.”

According to the Northeast Illinois Planning Commission, the South Extension will reduce travel times to suburban job centers by 12 to 14 minutes (20 percent) for an hour-long trip. Additionally, travel times on Will County roads are expected to be shaved by 13 percent for an hour-long trip because the I-355 South Extension will ease the traffic load on local roads, which are often the only current option for residents to travel to and from the rest of the region. The entire region is expected to benefit from mobility improvements that will more efficiently move goods, services and employees between I-55 and I-80 and beyond.

The new road includes six interchanges, including I-55, 127th Street, 143rd Street/Archer Avenue, 159th Street, U.S. Route 6 and I-80.  In addition, the I-355 South Extension opens with one mainline toll plaza – the Spring Creek Toll Plaza – located just north of Bruce Road, as well as ramp toll plazas.

•    127th Street ramp plazas – 50 cents for I-PASS and $1.00 for cash

•    143rd Street/Archer Avenue ramp plazas – 65 cents for I-PASS and $1.25 for cash

•    159th Street ramp plaza – 75 cents for I-PASS and $1.50 for cash

•    Spring Creek Toll Plaza -- $1.00 for I-PASS and $2.00 for cash

•    U.S. Route 6 ramp plaza – 25 cents for I-PASS and 50 cents for cash

Part of Tollway’s Congestion-Relief Program

The I-355 South Extension is part of the Illinois Tollway’s Congestion-Relief Program – Open Roads for a Faster Future, which will reduce travel times by rebuilding/restoring nearly all of the system, adding lanes to many miles of existing roads and converting 20 mainline toll plazas to barrier-free Open Road Tolling.  Open Road Tolling lanes are now available at all 20 plazas.

About the Illinois Tollway

The Illinois Tollway maintains and operates 286 miles of interstate tollways in 12 counties in Northern Illinois, including the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88), the Veterans Memorial  Tollway (I-355), the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) and the Tri-State Tollway (I-94, I-294, I-80/I-294).  Tollway customers can save time and money with I-PASS electronic toll collection - Get I-PASS & Get Going!
 
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