Illinois Tollway

Illinois Tollway unveils ‘lane blades' to help clear debris, keep drivers safe

The new trucks will roll out across the tollway network in coming weeks

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Officials with the Illinois Tollway have unveiled new technology that it says will help keep both its employees and motorists safe, preventing collisions and allowing more efficient debris cleanup.

The tool the agency will use to help perform these tasks is known as a “lane blade,” a retractable device that will not only function like a snow plow, cleaning debris from roadways, but will also allow drivers to stay in their vehicles and to monitor clean-up progress using mounted cameras.

The trucks will also have enhanced lighting and brighter paint, and all the new safety features will come as a welcome step for drivers in the Tollway system.

“(Previously) we would set up our truck on the shoulder, wait for a break in traffic, run out, clear it, and run back to the shoulder,” Kevin Koukol said.

Koukol said that he has had numerous near-death experiences during his time working for the Tollway Authority, and is ecstatic about the new technology.

“Everything is done from the truck,” he said. “It’s automated, you slow down traffic and you pace traffic in behind you.”

Each of the trucks, 12 in all, will come with a price tag of $260,000, according to officials. The goal of the Illinois Tollway is to position the trucks at each of their depots around the Chicago area.

The trucks will feature automated messages to alert drivers to slow down, and drivers can change messages with the tap of a screen, rather than being forced to pull over and type out messages.

Officials with Illinois Tollway say the technology will help keep drivers safe and will help make the process of debris cleanup more efficient.

“Whatever is going to make our customers and our employees and responders safe? They are on board with it,” Steve Mendiz, the chief of the traffic and Incident Management department within the Tollway, said.

Illinois Tollway “HELP” trucks are deployed when drivers become stranded or to respond to accidents on tollway roads. Drivers in need to assistance can dial *999 for assistance.

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