PS I wish I knew how to get rid of those ads.
Construction zone speed limits and tollway radar towers
GETTING AROUND WITH JON HILKEVITCH
10:48 PM CDT, July 6, 2008
Despite the threat of hefty fines, why do so many drivers think they can get away with ignoring the speed limit—even in highway construction zones—and are those new towers on the side of toll roads some sort of radar speed trap?
Q: I read in the Tribune that the 45-m.p.h. construction zone speed limit is in effect at all times, regardless of the presence of workers. I tried this out on the Reagan Memorial Tollway (Interstate Highway 88). Plain and simply, I was the only person driving 45 m.p.h. It was laughable watching the rear-view mirror as drivers were confounded by my rate of speed, and I felt I was contributing to a very dangerous situation while cars stacked up behind me. What is the truth, please, and is it your perception that the average driver has no understanding whatsoever about construction zone speed limits?
—Doug Snyder, Chicago
>A: There has been a whopping 34 percent decline this year in the number of speeding tickets that state troopers have issued on Chicago-area expressways, according to new data Getting Around obtained from the Illinois State Police.
The sharp drop-off in citations, prompted by fewer troopers working speed-enforcement details, has likely boosted the perception among lead-footed drivers that the chances of getting caught are slimmer than ever.
Even so, a fair amount of confusion probably exists over whether the 45-m.p.h. construction zone speed limit is in effect only when workers are present.
Illinois law clearly states that the 45-m.p.h. zone is for the duration of a project—24 hours a day, seven days a week. The reason is that in many cases, lanes have been temporarily narrowed, traffic configurations change and construction equipment is working or parked nearby, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
State troopers issued 3,275 speeding tickets on the interstate highways in District Chicago in Cook County from the beginning of the construction season on March 1 through the end of May, state police records show.
During the same period last year, 4,938 speeding tickets were meted out.
"The reason for the higher number last year was due to 21 additional troopers working every day during the Dan Ryan Expressway and Kingery Expressway construction projects," said Lt. Luis Gutierrez, a state police spokesman.
The data from both years does not include speeding tickets issued on the Illinois tollway system or through the use of state police photo enforcement radar vans. They are used exclusively in roadwork zones, where speeding tickets are a minimum $375.
The most speeding tickets issued this year have been on the Edens Expressway, which is undergoing a resurfacing project, and on the Dan Ryan and Bishop Ford Freeway. The total for the three expressways is 935, Gutierrez said.
Next highest are the Eisenhower Expressway (Interstate Highway 290), where 472 speeding tickets have been issued; Illinois Highway 53, 358 speeding tickets issued; the Stevenson Expressway (Interstate Highway 55), 341 speeding tickets issued; and the Kennedy Expressway (Interstate Highway 90), 268 speeding tickets issued, records show.
The photo-enforcement vans are being used in construction zones on the Edens, Illinois 53 and portions of three toll roads—the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88), the Tri-State Tollway (Interstate Highway 294) and the Northwest Tollway (I-90) in the Rockford area, officials said.
The registered owners of vehicles clocked by the radar vans exceeding the 45-m.p.h. work zone speed limit are mailed $375 tickets for the first offense.
In May, state troopers issued 502 speeding tickets in tollway work zones. Of that total, 269 were through the use of photo enforcement vans, said State Police Sgt. Jim Jenkner.
Q: I drive on I-294 every day from 127th Street to Ogden Avenue and I noticed in the construction zone they put up some type of solar towers spaced about a mile apart. Are they there to help catch speeding drivers?
—Tom Marx, Bensenville
>A: The towers are indeed radar devices, but they aren't being used to nab speeders, according to the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority.
Rather, the equipment is part of the tollway's remote traffic monitoring system, which is used to generate travel time information, said toll authority spokeswoman Joelle McGinnis.
The technology uses sensors to enhance the tollway's ability to detect accidents and clear disabled vehicles off the road quickly, she said.
Since the first solar-powered towers were erected in 2003 on toll roads east of the Fox River, there have been suspicions among some drivers that the equipment has been used for speed enforcement against I-PASS customers. According to this theory, I-PASS-equipped vehicles identified as arriving too quickly between various toll-collection sites are singled out for state troopers to issue speeding tickets.
"This technology is in no way related to speed enforcement on the tollway," McGinnis insisted, adding that information about the speed of individual vehicles is not shared with police.
Contact Getting Around at firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o the Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611. Read recent columns at www.chicagotribune.com/gettingaround