Illinois Tollway Shares Best Practices on Work Zone Safety With Transportation Professionals


Recently, the National Safety Council called upon the expertise of the Illinois Tollway and its industry-leading traffic management team to contribute to the national discussion on work zone safety. 

A 2020 National Safety Council Green Cross for Safety Award finalist for its success in integrating smart work zones on its system for construction and roadway maintenance, the Tollway was invited to join the panel to speak to its proven success in reducing work zone speeding and enhancing safety for workers and drivers. 

Steve Mednis, general manager of traffic and incident management, informed an online gathering of about 250 professionals interested in roadway safety about the many ways the Tollway anticipates, communicates and prepares for potential incidents in work zones. He also discussed some of the ways the Tollway uses technology to improve work zone safety through smart technologies. 

“For the Illinois Tollway, ensuring that our work zones are safe for customers and workers is a critical part of every project,” Mednis said. “Smart work zones allow us to use a variety of intelligent technologies so we can better monitor roadway conditions and communicate those conditions to drivers.” 

The December panel also included roadway safety experts from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, AECOM and the Laborers Health and Safety Fund of North America. 

Throughout its system, the Tollway uses intelligent transportation system technologies including traffic sensors, digital signage and CCTV cameras that are tied in to the agency’s Traffic and Incident Management System software to detect and communicate roadway conditions to motorists. 

In a well-defined work zone, these technologies can be customized with pre-selected safety messages that are triggered by real-time conditions, with additional sensors, cameras and portable changeable message signs added as needed. 

Mednis detailed during the panel discussion how smart work zones can be used to inform drivers of what’s ahead and how the Tollway keeps the public engaged by providing real-time information to drivers through roadway signage and social media. 

Mednis emphasized that the Tollway takes work zone safety into consideration from the start for every project, long before construction work begins. The Tollway takes into consideration the area where construction is taking place, ingress and egress, proximity to interchange ramps and how stage changes will affect drivers. 

Additionally, the Tollway holds pre-construction meetings with all involved parties – contractors, first responders, utilities, public agencies and others – to discuss every stage of a project and establish contingency plans to respond quickly should the need arise.

Asked what methods are effective in reducing speeding in work zones, Mednis pointed to enforcement and the presence of Illinois State Police District 15 troopers. The Tollway’s smart work zones can identify specific areas and at what times speeds are excessively high so State Police can step up enforcement in those areas. 

“The ultimate goal is to protect the safety of the motoring public and workers in work zones at every stage of every project,” Mednis said. “It’s important to keep our roadways safe so that we can keep traffic flowing smoothly and protect the workers who are building our roadways.”