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State

Illinois Tollway spending up to $400 million on garages, says buildings will save money

The Illinois Tollway is spending $300 million to $400 million on new and rehabbed maintenance garages that officials say will use 70% less electricity and eliminate the need to constantly run snow plows and other heavy diesel equipment during cold snaps.

The Tollway’s original maintenance garages were built in the 1950s and 1960s. The new garages are bigger and more environmentally friendly, Tollway officials said.

The designs for the buildings include energy-efficient lighting, rooftop solar arrays to generate electrical power, in-floor radiant heat, overhead natural lighting and overhead natural gas radiant heat, said Greg Stukel, deputy chief engineer for the Tollway. The buildings are certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for sustainable construction, a first for any Illinois transportation agency, Stukel said.

Besides the electricity savings, the design is expected to cut natural gas costs in half.

The Tollway already has built three of the new garages, and will build four more, along with rehabbing three existing ones, Stukel said. The Tollway’s $300 million to $400 million cost estimate is for both the garages and for land acquisition.

The new buildings will hold more equipment, which means that vehicles such snowplows and Illinois State Police cars won’t have to be parked outside, Stukel said. This will save on energy and emissions, because sometimes during extreme cold weather, snow-clearing equipment has to be kept running to make sure it’s ready to hit the road.

“We’re trying during the winter to keep the temperature inside the main garage area at 45 degrees, so we won’t have to keep them running,” Stukel said.

Costs were originally projected at $500 million when the work was planned in 2012, but speeding up the construction schedule has kept the price down, Stukel said. The construction is being paid for by tolls.

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