Maintaining a safe, well-functioning roadway system

Roads are a fundamental piece and the most heavily used transportation asset in our region. They are designed to efficiently allow people and goods to move safely to and from jobs, markets, and recreation. But heavy traffic on roads our can cause congestion. Northeastern Illinois is ranked consistently as one of the most congested in the U.S., with negative effects on our roadways:

  • Congestion is costly. Billions of dollars are wasted annually in time, fuel, and decreased productivity. 
  • Heavy traffic causes roads to deteriorate. Funding regular road maintenance is important and road conditions are linked to vehicle operating costs.
  • Safety concerns are rising. Our road network is used by multiple modes of transportation, including cars, freight, transit, bicycles, and pedestrians; we must reduce the number of fatalities, injuries, and crashes. 

The region needs to invest strategically to create and maintain a safe, efficient, and seamless road network. To alleviate congestion and improve conditions, the region should implement proven solutions, such as congestion pricing or adaptive signal control. These can keep traffic moving faster, reduce pollution, and get people where they need to go more quickly.

How CMAP addresses mobility

Congestion management process

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) maintains regional congestion management process to help advance quality of life and mobility goals described in ON TO 2050. An important outcome of the plan is a careful investigation of strategies that either directly reduce congestion or mitigate its effects by addressing related issues, such as air quality. From this, specific strategies can be selected and implemented to reach long term objectives set out by CMAP.

Intelligent transportation system

CMAP also promotes the use of an intelligent transportation system (ITS)— advanced technology that improves the movement of people and goods. An ITS can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the transportation system by increasing traveler safety and improving reliability.

What the region can do to improve roads

Adaptive traffic signal control

Adaptive signal control technology adjusts traffic light timing to improve reliability and smooth traffic flow, which eases congestion by effectively moving vehicles through green lights.

Congestion pricing

About half of congestion is caused by non-recurring sources like crashes, construction, and weather. Because these are less predictable than daily congestion factors such as travel demand and system capacity, they cause unreliable travel that costs drivers, transit riders, and businesses.

With congestion pricing, toll rates in express lanes rise at times when more drivers want to use the highway, then tolls fall when demand is low. Higher prices during peak periods can reduce congestion by encouraging travelers to carpool, take transit, or consider alternative routes and times for their trips.

Pavement management

Pavement management plans are offered under CMAP technical assistance program. The program helps agencies identify the right road and right treatment, at the right time. Preservation techniques such as crack sealing and localized patching can help extend the life of pavements economically, if done correctly and at the appropriate time.

Transportation demand management

Transportation demand management (TDM) is a set of strategies used to shift travelers’ behavior away from single-occupant car trips to more sustainable travel modes. They aim to influence behavior and distribute trips across multiple travel modes and non-peak periods. This reduces impacts to the environment and improve quality of travel, as well as providing additional travel options and information to commuters.

TDM programs can be more cost-effective and environmentally sustainable than other strategies used to accommodate travel demand, such as investments in expanded road infrastructure. TDM most commonly focuses on promoting transit, microtransit, carpooling, vanpooling, active travel, and alternate work arrangements, such as compressed work weeks and telework.

Roadway functional classification

Roadway functional classification can be used at the local government level to provide a direct link between transportation and land use. Local comprehensive plans should consider the interaction between adjacent land use and transportation facilities, establishing policies that link access to property, zoning, and development density to the functional classification of area roadways. 

As development in an area changes, the a roadway’s function can also change. If you are looking to reclassify a road in your community, use CMAP’s Roadway Functional Classification Guidebook to help navigate the process.

National Highway System

The National Highway System (NHS) is a network of roads important to the nation’s economy, defense, and mobility. The NHS consists of the interstate system, highways functionally classed as freeways and expressways, other principal arterials, roads important to national defense, and intermodal connectors. The NHS was developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation in cooperation with states, local officials, and metropolitan planning organizations, including CMAP.

The NHS is the basis of federal highway asset management regulations as well as transportation system performance measures and targets. Some federal regulations, including design standards and billboard regulations, continue to apply to the NHS. View a map of the NHS in northeastern Illinois.

Technical assistance

Improving the road network’s level of service costs effectively requires nuanced decision making. CMAP offers pavement management technical assistance to optimize life-cycle costs to achieve and sustain a target condition instead of prioritizing the repair of assets in worst condition first.  A customized program — developed from pavement condition data, construction history, and information on repair practices — is created for each municipality in the program. Dozens of communities have adopted pavement management plans.

Transportation project funding

CMAP awards federal funding to advance projects that improve pedestrian and bicycle access to transit, improve bicycle infrastructure, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program funds projects that improve air quality and roadway congestion, and the Carbon Reduction Program focuses on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The Transportation Alternatives Program funds non-motorized transportation projects, including the Northeastern Illinois Regional Greenways and Trails Plan. The Surface Transportation Program Shared Fund targets projects that address gaps in regional greenways and trails network due to physical barriers (such as a waterway, highway, or railroad) to bicycle and pedestrian movement.