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The need for speed, study examines congestion pricing
By Marni Pyke | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 7/9/2010 12:00 AM

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Want to shave precious time off your morning commute from Elgin to Schaumburg?

It could come at a price - but that's something drivers in other states are willing to pay.

The Metropolitan Planning Council Thursday released details of a draft study commissioned by the Illinois tollway on congestion pricing.

The concept involves a wide range of options such as lanes where cars with two or more occupants drive free while single-occupancy vehicles pay a fee or charging motorists for driving during rush hour.

The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority has adopted a higher charge for trucks during peak times but not for passenger cars.

MPC officials said they consulted with municipal leaders, the trucking industry and tollway drivers before picking three major highways to analyze - the Stevenson Expressway (I-55), the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90) and the Kennedy Expressway's reversible lanes.

The draft report estimated that driving from Route 31 to Route 53/I-290 on I-90 during the morning rush in 2020 would take about one hour at 12 mph. Building another lane with congestion pricing would drop that ordeal to 12 minutes at 59 mph. Planners projected that the change would ease commutes for drivers in regular lanes with travel times of 23 minutes at 32 mph. The cost of using the special lane would be $3.27 per trip.

On the Stevenson Expressway getting from I-355 to the Tri-State during morning rush would take about 12 minutes at 42 mph in 2020, the report calculated. With an extra congestion-priced lane, that would scale back to 9 minutes at 55 mph for a cost of $1.40. Drivers in the other lanes would see a 10-minute commute at 48 mph.

For the Kennedy's reversible lanes, the inbound morning commute from the Edens Expressway to California Avenue would clock 7 minutes at 28 mph in 2020. With congestion-pricing, that would go down to 4 minutes at 53 mph for $1.05.

Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said the agency was interested in learning more about the Jane Addams option, since that highway is controlled by the authority, unlike the Kennedy and Stevenson expressways.

"Congestion pricing is something to look at as we go forward," she said.

Other places with congestion pricing programs include Minneapolis and Orange County in California.