Many commuters may have noticed over the last several months that congestion has cleared on the Jane Addams Tollway, which is the stretch of I-90 that covers O’Hare airport up to the Wisconsin border. Widening and rebuilding efforts was recently completed as part of the second phase of the 2.5 billion dollar project to replace, expand and update the tollway.
The next phase is currently underway, according to WBEZ radio and the Illinois Tollway’s homepage, which involves building “smart road” technology. This third phase involves installation of dozens of huge metal archways and signs above the road located between O’Hare and Barrington. These metal archways are dynamic signs that display suggestions for drivers. For example, if there is an accident two miles down the road from driver, a sign over that lane may show a big red X, encouraging drivers to change lanes before they get to the problem spot. Another lane may show a green arrow, communicating to drivers that they should drive in that lane. Tollway engineers will remotely update the electric signs to reflect current conditions. The technology will also allow Pace buses to ride on the shoulders, much like they already do on the Stevenson Expressway in Chicago. The signs are expected to up and running within the next few months.
The purpose for this technology is three-fold: improve safety, reduce congestion, and develop an infrastructure for future technologies like driverless cars.
I am somewhat dubious of the future of driverless cars but the potential for safety and congestion improvements is encouraging.
Similar “smart” signs were installed in Seattle in 2010, which has seen positive results. The system (known as “active traffic management”) reduced weekday vehicle collisions by seven percent, and weekend car crashes went down by as much as 20 percent.
I will be interested to see the results of this new technology in the next few years. As I have written recently, the country as a while (and Illinois) has seen an increase in traffic fatalities over the last few years, and our city and state have been searching for answers. Hopefully adding “smart” technology is a step in the right direction.
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