| January 5, 2014

Extreme cold, snow and strong winds make driving difficult

DOWNERS GROVE, IL –The Illinois Tollway asked drivers Sunday to defer all non-essential travel because a winter snowfall followed by extreme cold and strong winds will make driving hazardous.

For drivers who must get behind the wheel, the Tollway is advising travelers to use extra caution as strong winds expected overnight Sunday into Monday, January 6, likely will cause blowing and drifting snow that could significantly reduce visibility on some roadways.

The Tollway also anticipates activating Zero Weather Road Patrols tonight to assist customers stranded in their cars during the severe cold. The patrols are expected to continue into Tuesday, January 7, or until the temperature or wind chill rises above zero degrees.

“Facing such extreme conditions, the Tollway is urging its customers to avoid driving if possible,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur. “For those who must travel, we are asking that you take proper precautions for dangerously cold temperatures and allow extra time for your trips.”

The Tollway currently has its entire fleet of 182 snowplows deployed to remove snow and conduct deicing operations as the snowfall continues across parts of its 286-mile system. The Tollway’s Snow Operations Center remains open to manage the systemwide response.

The number of Zero Weather Road Patrols provided by the Tollway to assist customers stranded in their cars will be doubled as plowing required by the weekend snowfall winds down. The Zero Weather Road Patrols provide roadway assistance when temperatures or sustained wind chills fall below zero degrees.

Typically, there are a minimum of 11 Zero Weather Road Patrols, at least one from each of the Tollway’s  maintenance garages located throughout the system. As plowing operations conclude, the Tollway anticipates increasing the number of Zero Weather Road Patrols until two are operating from each garage, or a minimum of 22 vehicles systemwide.

The Illinois Tollway and District 15 State Police have helped more than 100 customers in need of roadway assistance since the snowfall began Saturday morning.

The 24-hour Zero Weather Road Patrols search for drivers stranded in disabled vehicles and respond to calls that come in to *999 motorist assistance, Illinois Tollway dispatch or Illinois State Police District 15.

While the Tollway Highway Emergency Lane Patrol (H.E.L.P.) trucks sponsored by State Farm run from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, the Zero Weather Road Patrols work throughout the day and night, including weekends. Cars or trucks with empty fuel tanks, flat tires, batteries needing a boost, or overheated radiators are just some of the most frequent problems reported among the drivers needing help.

The Zero Weather Road Patrols consist of crew cab trucks equipped with arrow boards for directing traffic around accidents or stranded vehicles and enough room to accommodate up to five passengers if motorists need to be transported to a Tollway maintenance garage, toll plaza or Tollway oasis while service is obtained.

In dangerously cold weather, the Illinois Tollway oases also serve as warming centers. The Tollway encourages customers to visit one of the seven oases located along the Tollway system to warm up, check their vehicles or simply take a break. The oases provide a variety of food, beverage and retail offerings, as well as Mobil fuel stations. On the Tri-State Tollway (I-94/I-294/I-80), there are four oases: Lake Forest, O’Hare, Hinsdale and Chicago Southland Lincoln in South Holland. There are two oases on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) in Belvidere and Des Plaines and one on the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88) in DeKalb.

Winter Weather Travel Tips
The Tollway offers the following travel tips to keep safe during dangerously cold weather:

·        Be sure your cellphone is fully charged before heading out.

·        Be sure tires are properly inflated during cold weather. Tires lose a pound of pressure for every 10 degrees the temperature drops.  Check your vehicle owner’s manual for recommended tire pressure.

·        Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up and ensure that you have extra driving time if the weather is unfavorable.  Also, consider using winter or synthetic motor oil for colder temperatures, as conventional oils may thicken in colder temperatures.  Check your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations for oil that meets colder temperature ranges.

·        Keep a cold weather safety kit in your car that includes gloves, boots, blankets, road flares, water and a flashlight with fresh batteries.  Other items to include: jumper cables, first-aid kit, basic tool kit, hot packs, bottled water and non-perishable snacks such as granola or candy bars.

·        Stranded motorists should turn on their emergency lights and remain in their vehicles until help arrives.

·        Cellphone users should call *999 motorist assistance for roadway assistance or to report other motorists pulled over on the side of the road.  Before calling, motorists should try to note the roadway and direction of travel and nearest milepost or crossroad so the stranded motorist can be quickly located.

Know Before You Go
The Tollway offers the following ways for drivers to get the latest travel information before they get on the road:
•<> – Construction/Planning section and Tollway Trip   Calculator and real-time roadway incident information
•         1-800-TOLL-FYI  – Daily lane closure and travel information (updated every two hours or as conditions require during winter storms)
•<> – Real-time travel times
•<> – Up-to-the-minute traffic by roadway.
•<> – Latest traffic conditions
•<> – Real-time roadway incident information at Tollway Trip 90, Tollway Trip 88, Tollway Trip 355 and Tollway Trip 94/294

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