Inside the Tollway
Illinois Tollway roadway worker Kevin Rice is used to assisting drivers who are involved in crashes or whose vehicles break down along the Tollway system, but on a Thursday last month he went above and beyond to assist a carload of stranded travelers.
On August 13th, Rice responded to a crash with area maintenance site manager Phil Peterson on the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88) near DeKalb. After removing their overturned vehicle from the road, Rice and Peterson then turned to getting the passengers to a safe place for the night; however, because of their feline friend that proved challenging.
The duo worked together to find them lodging - driving them to four different DeKalb hotels before they found affordable lodging that also would accept their two pet cats. And then, because the travelers were short on cash, Rice even dug into his wallet and threw in some of his own money to make sure the group could cover the cost of their room.
“I just felt like I should do something to help,” said Rice, who has worked as a Tollway equipment operator/laborer for 13 years. “I think, ‘what if it was one of my family members out there?’ You’d want someone to take care of your wife or your kid. I just felt I should be helpful to them.”
It wasn’t a typical day at the office for Rice, but it’s part of what he sees as his job at the Tollway: To assist customers who need help, whether it’s by changing a flat tire, shuttling them off the roadway to a safer location following a crash--or even helping them find a place to stay.
“I felt we should do as much for them as we could,” said Rice.
His reward was the travelers’ gratitude—“they said, ‘we really appreciate what you did,’ ” Rice recalled--and the fact that all escaped the crash without serious injury.
“I’m glad they were OK. That was the main thing,” Rice said of the travelers, who were heading from Nebraska to Chicago.
Peterson said he wasn’t surprised to see Rice throw in his own money to make sure the travelers had a place to stay.
“That’s just the kind of guy he is,” said Peterson. “He’s always been that way, helping people out.”
The Tollway works to provide the best possible travel experience for its customers and roadway workers like Rice and Peterson are on the front lines of that effort.
“Kevin’s work that day went far above and beyond the level of service we expect Tollway staff to provide to drivers, but it exemplifies our commitment to do whatever we can to assist and safeguard our customers,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director José Alvarez.
Peterson said that’s the goal he and his staff at M-11 always strive to meet.
“I tell my guys to always provide five-star service to our customers,“ Peterson said. “I want to make sure we give them as much service as we can.”