Illinois Tollway highlights its safety innovations at annual TES Conference

The Illinois Tollway highlighted its commitment to safety and innovation at the annual Illinois Traffic and Engineering Safety Conference this month. 

Each year, Tollway staff help organize and participate in the event, which is hosted by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The conference attracts transportation officials, industry professionals and academics from across the state.

This year, Tollway staff presented on how the agency responded to changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and provided an update on the Move Illinois capital program, featuring new initiatives to continue keeping customers and workers safe. 

“Everything we did before COVID as part of our roadway traffic and incident management still applied during the pandemic,” said Steven Mednis, general manager of Traffic and Incident Management. “We just had to get more creative.”

While most businesses and workers stayed home during the pandemic, the Tollway quickly stepped up efforts to protect customers and workers. The agency put a halt to cash collection, shifted to all-electronic tolling and mobilized crews to put up signage to inform customers of the switch to electronic toll collection.

The Tollway adopted an alternate schedule with social distancing restrictions and additional responsibilities for its traffic operations technicians and Dispatch operators who continued coming in to Tollway headquarters every day. On the roadway, workers were provided with appropriate personal protection equipment and plexiglass shields were installed in H.E.L.P. trucks to separate operators and customers. 

Working in a more remote operational environment, the Tollway accelerated efforts to develop its TIMS2GO mobile incident response tool. This app puts all the ITS resources of the Tollway’s Traffic Operations Center, including the Traffic Incident Management System, in the palms of the hands of traffic managers to let them gather real-time incident information and direct the appropriate resources to respond anytime from anywhere using any smartphone, tablet or laptop. 

“We are always looking for ways to keep our roadways safe,” said Peter Foernssler, deputy chief of program implementation, who detailed a variety of additional Tollway safety initiatives.

One of the ways the Tollway is looking out for motorists is through its wrong-way driver pilot program. Through this effort, the agency is exploring various physical and technological enhancements to identify, measure, assess and counter wrong-way drivers. 

The agency is also protecting its investments in its roadways by upgrading weigh-in-motion sites at key entry points along the system to identify overweight trucks and vehicles with tire anomalies such as mismatched, underinflated or missing tires. 

One of the latest innovations is a mobile roadway weather information system that allows snow plows and other Tollway vehicles to collect real-time weather and pavement conditions to provide a clear, accurate picture of a specific location that may not be available through stationary roadside RWIS stations. 

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