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Press Contact: Tom Garritano (312-386-8609 or tgarritano@cmap.illinois.gov)
Program Contact: Jesse Elam (312-386-8688 or jelam@cmap.illinois.gov)

Computer models show congestion pricing's benefits for
metropolitan Chicago residents and region

Report and website feature new Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning analysis that reinforces the need to implement "express toll lanes," starting with five new GO TO 2040 expressway projects 

CHICAGO, October 15, 2012 -- For individuals and the region, new computer-modeled analysis by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) describes significant benefits of congestion pricing, which uses "express toll lanes" to manage traffic for faster, reliable travel times. If it were implemented on five new construction projects, express-lane drivers during the morning rush would reach their destinations 31 to 66 percent quicker, at a modest additional cost.

The CMAP study looks at five expressway projects as recommended by the GO TO 2040 comprehensive regional plan. These include two new facilities -- the Illinois Route 53 north extension and Illinois Route 120 bypass and the Elgin-O'Hare West Bypass -- plus new lanes on the I-90 Addams Tollway, the I-290 Eisenhower Expressway, and the I-55 Stevenson Expressway. Today CMAP issued the report at a new website, www.cmap.illinois.gov/congestion-pricing/, to demonstrate the need for congestion pricing as a tool to manage traffic and help pay for infrastructure improvements.  

As CMAP's computer modeling demonstrates, the toll rate can be finely calibrated to manage demand so drivers may count on reaching their destinations quicker. Drivers in the general "non-express" lanes will also benefit from faster, more-reliable travel. Higher prices during peak periods may also reduce congestion by encouraging travelers to carpool, take transit, or consider alternative routes and times for their trips.  

"Our research confirms that congestion pricing is an important tool for managing traffic flow," said CMAP executive director Randy Blankenhorn. "While the projected gross toll revenues for these five projects will help defray a portion construction costs -- which is significant because the days of abundant federal and  state funds are over -- the primary reason to implement congestion pricing is that it gives travelers a choice and manages our highway system to preserve the new capacity that we are building. Elsewhere across the U.S., drivers welcome the reliability and cost-effectiveness of express toll lanes. With construction approaching for two new expressways and three new lanes on existing ones, now is the time for the Illinois Tollway and Illinois Department of Transportation to make a strong commitment to congestion pricing."

CMAP's analysis shows that support for congestion pricing generally increases as the public becomes familiar with it. An Illinois Tollway survey of its existing users in 2008 showed 54 percent were willing to pay an extra toll if it would ensure congestion-free travel. In that same survey, 58 percent of individuals given information about express lanes were in favor of the Tollway building them. The new CMAP site also points to successful congestion pricing implementations across the U.S. (see map). For example, approval rates for the SR-91 Express Lanes in Orange County, California, climbed from about 40 to 45 percent before the project was completed to 59 to 72 percent after completion. A recent SR-91 Express Lanes survey found that 90 percent of users were satisfied with the facility.

Few drivers would use the express toll lanes daily -- most who use them would do so two or three times per week, according to the CMAP report. The analysis shows that congestion-priced facilities would not exclude lower-income users. The study found that the median household income of express toll lane users would be slightly higher than the income of general purpose lane users, but the results show users from all incomes choosing to pay the premium.

Momentum for congestion pricing has been building in the region. The GO TO 2040 plan, adopted in October 2010, strongly recommended it as a tool for managing traffic flow and financing infrastructure. The Illinois Tollway's I-90 Corridor Planning Council and IL-53/120 Blue Ribbon Advisory Council recommended congestion pricing for both those expressway projects. The Tollway board would need to approve both those implementations, with construction on the I-90 Addams Tollway additional lane project beginning as soon as next year. As a new expressway, the IL-53/120 project will take additional time. 

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is already evaluating congestion pricing as part of constructing a new lane on the I-55 Stevenson expressway. Likewise, IDOT is looking at it as part of plans to improve travel on the I-290 Eisenhower expressway. CMAP's research also indicates that congestion pricing could be successfully implemented on the new Elgin-O'Hare West Bypass.

Each of these Tollway and IDOT projects was elevated as a high regional priority by the GO TO 2040 comprehensive plan. As the official Metropolitan Planning Organization, CMAP has federal and state mandates to ensure that the region's highway and transit systems are adequately funded and maintained. For major projects such as these to be included in the regional plan -- and therefore to be eligible for federal funds -- they must meet the strict U.S. Department of Transportation standard of "fiscal constraint," which means that funding from all sources will be adequate to build and maintain them.   

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About CMAP. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is the comprehensive regional planning organization for the northeastern Illinois counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will. By state and federal law, CMAP is responsible for producing the region's official, integrated plan for land use and transportation. The agency's innovative GO TO 2040 planning campaign develops and implements strategies to shape the region's transportation system and development patterns, while also addressing the natural environment, economic development, housing, education, human services, and other quality-of-life factors. See www.cmap.illinois.gov for more information.

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