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Could drivers be able to pay their way out of traffic congestion?



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Updated: July 3, 2012 9:40AM

Drivers could be given the option of paying more for a less-congested commute as part of a plan to rebuild and widen I-90 from O’Hare to Rockford.

It’s called congestion pricing and it would give people the choice to pay a fee for a better commute.

Congestion pricing works in several ways:

◆ Charging motorists to use separate lanes on a highway.

◆ Adding tolls during rush hours on roads that aren’t now toll roads, or increasing them on toll roads during those hours.

◆ Charging motorists to drive into a congested area.

◆ Instituting per-mile charges on roads within a congested area.

The Metropolitan Planning Council, one of several groups involved in the I-90 Corridor recommendations, said the plan is only successful if coupled with public transit improvements.

So one goal of congestion pricing is to shift rush-hour travel to other transportation modes, such as trains.

London has used congestion pricing and used proceeds to increase transit capacity by 30 percent, and as a result it has decreased congestion because more people are using public transit.

The Tollway board on Thursday approved construction contracts worth $29 million for shoulder widening and other work to prepare for the actual rebuilding and widening of the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway, slated for next year.

“After years of repeatedly patching and repaving, we’re finally preparing to begin the long-term improvements needed to address the needs of the I-90 Corridor,” Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said.

The goal is to link Rockford to O’Hare Airport with eight lanes from the Kennedy Expressway to Randall Road and six lanes from Randall Road to I-39.

Also on Thursday, a group of experts presented its I-90 recommendations to the board. Besides congestion pricing, proposals include improving expressway access to O’Hare, adding park-and-ride lots and installing express bus lanes.

The 54-year-old Tollway from the Kennedy Expressway to I-39 in Rockford is used by nearly a million travelers per day.

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