CHICAGO -- If you've traveled around to other major cities in the nation, you've no doubt seen carpool, or high-occupancy vehicle, lanes on the Interstate. Now Illinois wants to get into the game.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday unveiled a $1.87 billion tollway improvement plan which includes the introduction of "Green Lanes," lanes for buses and ride-sharers, and new interchange construction.
Budgeted at $400 million, the 80 miles of "green lanes" would be available at regular I-PASS rates for vehicles carrying two or more people. Single-occupant vehicles could use the lanes for a premium fee. To encourage environmentally responsible vehicles and congestion reduction, drivers of hybrids, electric or fuel cell vehicles, as well as those with high m.p.g. ratings, will have access to the green lanes for a variable fee, the governor said.
Tollway Chairman John Mitola said he likes the plan.
"The introduction of green lanes reduces our impact on the environment while saving drivers time and money," Mitola said. "Investing in car pool programs now will help commuters cost their costs at the gas pump and on the road for years to come."
Carpool lanes are in use in more than two dozen urban areas around the country, including New York, Detroit, Miami and Los Angeles, but they're not always popular, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Wednesday.
In California in the 1970s, angry drivers dumped broken glass and nails onto the Santa Monica Freeway to protest new high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. Since then, California politicians have only approved HOV lanes when they add to a highway's capacity, said Martin Wachs, an HOV lane expert and director of the Transportation Space and Technology program at the Rand Corp. think tank.
Also included in the project are two new interchanges on the Tri-State Tollway, at I-294/I-57, and on the James Addams Tollway, at I-90/I-290, and the Tollway will invest in new or expanded arterial interchanges. On the Tri-State Tollway, the improvement plan will build a new $500 million interchange at one of the few points in the nation where Interstates cross, but do not connect. The Tollway will also redesign and construct a new $500 million interchange at the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) and I-290/IL Route 53 to reduce area congestion due to decades of regional growth.
Blagojevich said the plan would be financed by bonds backed by a modest toll increase for commercial vehicles and variable tolls rates to be established for single-occupant passenger vehicles using the Green Lanes. I-PASS rates would not be increased, Blagojevich said.
Public hearings to discuss the proposal are set to begin next month.