The Illinois Tollway Board of Directors Thursday approved a plan to lower the cost to get an I-PASS transponder when opening a new I-PASS account in advance of the Tri-State Tollway (I-294)/I-57 Interchange opening in October.
“This change demonstrates how we’re working to provide everybody with the same access to all the opportunities our state has to offer, including its first-class highway system,” Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) said. “We want to make sure all of our residents who use the Illinois Tollway can benefit from the advantages offered by I-PASS.”
Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur added: “The Tollway is committed to ‘everybody in, nobody left out’ and the plan our Board approved today will make getting an I-PASS as easy as possible.We have heard that the upfront cost of I-PASS can be a barrier for some and we hope that this program will help relieve that burden so that everyone has access to I-PASS.”
As part of a larger campaign to educate customers about the new, all-electronic interchange and encourage them to get I-PASS, the agency is temporarily lowering the cost to $30 for a new I-PASS account from the current $50 or $60.
For new customers, the deposit required to obtain an I-PASS transponder will be permanently reduced from $20 to $10 for all account types. Additionally, both the initial prepaid toll amount and the minimum rate to replenish I-PASS accounts will be reduced from $40 to $20 for customers who open new accounts through Dec. 31, 2014.
For existing customers who replenish their accounts manually, a $10 deposit refund will automatically be applied to their I-PASS account balances in the form of a credit to their pre-paid toll accounts. Cash refunds will not be issued. Existing customers can also have their minimum rate to replenish I-PASS accounts reduced from $40 to $20 upon request.
These offers begin Oct. 1.
To take advantage of these offers, new and existing customers must call 800-UCI-PASS (800-824-7277) weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., weekends from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or visit one of the Illinois Tollway’s Customer Service Centers. (Offers not available online or at Jewel-Osco store locations).
“The new I-294/I-57 Interchange is another example of the Illinois Tollway Board’s commitment to improve the Tollway system and enhance access for our customers, as well as communities and businesses,” said Tollway Board Chair Paula Wolff. “So, it only makes sense to make I-PASS more accessible to customers who will be using the interchange.”
Completion of the first phase of the new interchange in October will create access from northbound I-57 to northbound I-294 and from southbound I-294 to southbound I-57, including a new interchange at 147th Street.
I-PASS discounted rates for the new all-electronic interchange will be 75 cents for cars and $1.50 for customers who pay their unpaid tolls online. Truck rates will range from $1.50 to $4 during daytime hours, with overnight discounts offered.
In July, the Tollway announced three new initiatives for customers planning to use the new I-294/I-57 Interchange intended to make traveling on the new interchange ramps as convenient as possible.
This fall, customers who use the I-294/I-57 Interchange without I-PASS will have 30 days from the date of their unpaid toll to pay online – up from seven days on all other parts of the Tollway system. This extended, limited-time offer will expire on Dec. 31, 2014. Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, customers without I-PASS who use the I-294/I-57 Interchange will have seven days to pay their unpaid tolls.
For added convenience, the Tollway is also opening a temporary Customer Service Center at the Secretary of State Office in Midlothian from September through November 2014. This three-month satellite center located in the heart of the Chicago Southland is intended to serve local residents who wish to obtain I-PASS, pay their unpaid tolls or receive other assistance.
In addition, the Tollway recently hosted three I-PASS roadshow events to give local residents an opportunity to get an I-PASS transponder, learn how to avoid toll violations and ask questions and provide feedback to Tollway staff.
The Illinois Tollway operates the nation’s largest electronic tolling system, with more than 87 percent of all toll transactions paid electronically. Currently, there are more than 3.6 million I-PASS customers with more than 5 million active transponders.
While all of the Tollway’s recently constructed interchanges have not included a cash payment option, this is the first interstate-to-interstate connection on the Tollway system where there is no toll collection point on the mainline roadway for customers who wish to pay cash. Tollway customers who would like to pay cash to travel between I-294 and I-57 will still be able to do so at the 159th Street Ramp Toll Plaza or via the 163rd Street Toll Plaza. These are the routes being used today.
The new I-294/I-57 Interchange will be the fourth all-electronic interchange on the Tollway system. Other all-electronic toll collection points include the Illinois Route 47 Interchange on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90), the Balmoral Avenue Interchange on I-294 and the Eola Road Interchange on the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88). The $3.4 billion Elgin O’Hare Western Access Project will be the first all-electronic toll road on the Tollway system.
The $719 million I-294/I-57 Interchange is part of the Tollway’s 15-year, $12 billion capital program, “Move Illinois: The Illinois Tollway Driving the Future.”
The interchange will create a long-sought connection between two major interstates in the southern Chicago that will relieve congestion on local routes, enhance economic development and improve overall transportation throughout the region.
The interchange is expected to serve more than 76,000 vehicles per day and provide direct freight access to Chicago’s south suburbs – saving drivers $4 million annually in fuel.
Tri-State Tollway drivers currently using I-80 to get to I-57 will save 25 travel hours per year using the new interchange. The full interchange is expected to be completed in 2024.