Richard Carlson, N9JIG
2009-10-19 10:54:59 UTC
Jon Hilkevitch, www.chicagotribune.com 10-19-09
Illinois tollways: New markers to be posted every quarter-mile instead
of half-mile, 562 million upgrade aims to locate car breakdowns, other
emergencies more easily
It might seem like an expensive exercise in sign clutter to some drivers.
But if your car breaks down on the Illinois tollway, doubling the number
of mile marker signs alongside the roadway will make it easier to let
tow truck drivers know your location.
The effort to post new markers every quarter-mile -- instead of each
half-mile -- is costing more than a half-million dollars.
Such an extravagant endeavor was not a consideration when the world's
first mile-marker stone obelisks, made from granite or marble, were
installed by Roman Empire road builders back when people traveled at
most only a few miles per day.
Officials at the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority said installing
4,500 new signs is money well spent to help drivers involved in
accidents, medical emergencies or any other time when the unexpected
Tollway officials figured that since all the toll roads are being torn
up and rebuilt as part of the agency's $6.3 billion congestion-relief
program, revamping the mileposts made sense.
For safety reasons, officials don't want motorists getting out of their
vehicles to locate a reference point.
"The tollway, along with the Illinois State Police, tow truck operators
and emergency first-responders all agreed that the quarter-mile spacing
would help customers better identify where they are, especially if their
vehicles are stranded and they need to call for help," said Joelle
McGinnis, spokeswoman for the toll agency.
Old mileage markers denoting the start and halfway point of each mile
are being replaced because they are not compatible with the new signs.
In addition, on some segments of the toll road system, mile post zero is
no longer where it had been since the late 1950s, when the toll
authority opened. We'll tell you where it went later in the column.
The new mileage markers posted at the side of roads indicating positions
on the highway grid also will show the direction of travel and the
shield of the particular interstate highway on the entire 286-mile toll
road system. The old signs only displayed the mileage.
And in what might seem like a geeky debate, tollway officials pondered
whether to show the mileage increments in decimals or fractions to make
it easier on the mathematically challenged.
Fractions are used in the new green-and-white quarter-mile signs.
Mileage markers are spaced every mile, meanwhile, on most
state-maintained roads operated by the Illinois Department of
But there are exceptions. Along the recently rebuilt Kingery Expressway,
where there are limited exits or cross streets to be used as reference
points, mileage markers are spaced two-tenths of a mile apart, according
to IDOT. On the Dan Ryan Expressway, which has numerous cross streets
and exits, half-mile spacing is used for the markers.
Some IDOT markers do use decimals.
"It depends on the highway and how congested or urban it is," said Steve
Travia, IDOT bureau chief of traffic for the Chicago area.
On some highways in Wisconsin, mile markers are posted each tenth of a
mile. At most areas on the Illinois tollway system, under the new sign
program, eight signs per mile appear in each direction (four markers
near the right shoulder and four along the median), for a total of 16
markers each mile.
At a cost of $125 to manufacture, each quarter-mile marker at the toll
authority sign shop in Naperville comes out to $2,000 a mile on the
majority of the system, or about $562,000 for the entire tollway system.
Toll authority officials say the cost is worthwhile. They also contend
it's not a case of sign pollution, even though nobody complained about
being given up for lost when the markers were previously posted every
The conversion has been completed on the Reagan Memorial Tollway
(Interstate Highway 88), except in remaining construction zones, and on
the Veterans Memorial Tollway (Interstate Highway 355).The Tri-State
Tollway (Interstate Highway 294), including the Edens Spur (Interstate
Highway 94), will be re-marked by December, officials said. It will be
followed by the Jane Addams Tollway (Interstate Highway 90) in 2010.
The toll authority is altering the location of milepost zero in some
cases in order to resolve mile-marker inconsistencies at the junctions
where toll roads and state highways meet.
Since the tollway began operations in 1958, the markers on the Tri-State
began at zero at Illinois Highway 394 near the Indiana border and
increased heading north. That part will remain the same up to the Edens
Spur in the north suburbs.
But under the new system, Tri-State mileage markers will start at zero
at the Wisconsin state line and increase moving south to the Spur. The
numbers will match up with the existing numbering on the Edens
Expressway and provide consistency with the federal interstate numbering
system, McGinnis said.
There's more. The Tri-State, which had been designated a north-south
road since its opening in 1958, will now be labeled on signs as an
east-west route on the I-94 portion.
The same reversal of mileage markers will occur next year on the Addams.
Mile post zero will be at the Wisconsin border, and the numbers will
increase in the direction toward the terminus of the Addams at the
Kennedy Expressway near O'Hare International Airport. Currently, mile
post zero on I-90 is near O'Hare, and the numbers increase going north
to the Badger State.
Also by next year, the toll authority will implement a new numbering
system to mark exit ramps. The numbers at the exits will correspond to
the mileage at the location. The name of the connecting roadway will
continue to be displayed, officials said.
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