November 10, 2021

Halfway! Project no. 50 in our Top 100 Projects countdown is a major Epstein civil engineering project for the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (Tollway), bringing Open Road Tolling (ORT) (non-stop toll-collection) to Plazas 51 and 37.

Epstein was selected by Tollway in December 2004 to provide professional engineering design services for implementation of ORT at Toll Plaza 51 (York Road) and Toll Plaza 37 (Joliet Road). The schedule projected construction to begin in September 2005 and the facility to be operational by September 2006. A notice to proceed was issued on December 17, 2004 and the design team was provided a conceptual design and program budget of $48 million.

By December 22nd, Epstein had produced their first conceptual cost estimate, which projected total costs of $120 million. Epstein identified several high priced items that were not anticipated in the programming budget, including the reconstruction of the mainline bridge over 22nd Street, the reconstruction of a significant portion of 22nd Street, necessary in order to provide adequate clearance, the relocation of two Commonwealth Edison transmission towers and the relocation of a cellular communications tower. In addition, any one of these items had the potential of jeopardizing the aggressive schedule. Epstein immediately notified the client of these potential show stoppers and, together with the Tollway, devised a plan to bring the project back to budget and schedule.

The Tollway identified a Tollway-owned property located on the south side of I-88 between Meyers Road and Highland Avenue that had been purchased for the construction of an oasis. The Tollway proposed that the toll collections currently being performed at York Road be split, so east bound collections be performed at Meyers Road and west bound be performed at York Road. Within two weeks, Epstein had performed a geometric analysis and conceptual cost estimate indicating the split plaza concept could be designed and constructed on time and within the program budget. In order to remain on schedule, Epstein proposed an early earthwork package for the Meyers Road Plaza be advertised in May 2005 for a July construction start. On February 14, 2005, 2 months into a 9-month design schedule, the Tollway notified Epstein to proceed with the production of construction documents for the new split plaza concept.

Due to the proximity of the new east bound plaza to residential development, it was necessary for the Tollway to perform public outreach. Epstein and the Tollway conducted a series of public information workshops with the surrounding residents. Three public meetings were held, which resulted in a letter of commitment issued to the home owners association.


Extensive coordination with various public agencies and utilities was necessary including DuPage County Division of Transportation, The Village of Oak Brook, three fire departments; Oak Brook, Downers Grove and York Township, Flag Creek Sanitary District, Commonwealth Edison, several pipe transmission line companies and Illinois Department of Transportation.

Epstein worked with Commonwealth Edison to determine minimum clearances required to one of their transmission towers. Pipe line coordination occurred at Illinois 83, where approximately five major lines cross the Tollway to the north. Epstein worked with the pipe line companies to determine precise horizontal and vertical locations of their lines as well as to cap vent pipes during construction so that temporary pavements could be constructed over them.

The final design solution included the construction of a new Toll Plaza 52 (Meyers Road) for eastbound toll collection, modifications to Toll Plaza 51 (York Rd) to eliminate eastbound toll collection, removal of Midwest Road eastbound exit ramp toll collection and the creation of Plaza 54 (IL RT 83) and 55 (Midwest Road) eastbound entrance ramp toll collection. The Ramp Plazas included the full reconstruction of the ramps to implement necessary geometric changes. The new Plaza 52 included reconstruction of 2,100 feet of mainline pavement, exit and entrance tapers on and off the mainline to the toll plaza, new toll plaza pavement, a new toll collection facility including a new building, noise wall, 4 manual collection lanes, employee parking, and detention. Modification of the existing Plaza 51 included removal of booths and pavement eastbound to eliminate all existing eastbound toll collection. Included in the scope of services were horizontal & vertical geometric design, roadway and plaza lighting design, signing and pavement marking, retaining wall design, maintenance of traffic, utility coordination, environmental coordination, drainage improvements, permit applications and plaza building site design.

Construction of the earthwork at the Meyers Road Plaza was started in mid July 2005 and included noise walls and retaining walls. Construction of the main plaza at Meyers Road and ramp plazas at IL Route 83 and Midwest Road began in October. Construction of the ORT solution for the west bound toll collections at York Road started in May of 2006. ORT at the east and west bound plazas and at Route 83 opened in September of 2006. Midwest Road ramp plaza opened before 2007.

The partial reconstruction/reconfiguration of Toll Plaza 37 (Joliet Road) included the conversion of the ten lane plaza to include 4 I-Pass only lanes and 6 automatic (coin) lanes. Plaza 37 included signing, pavement markings, pavement and island design within the plaza, plaza lighting design, electrical equipment design, maintenance of traffic, utility coordination, and drainage improvements.

The ultra-aggressive schedule required the design team to show its flexibility and adaptability in the face of constantly changing client expectations, site conditions, scope requirements and project delivery methods.