How ARA Helped the Illinois Tollway Save Millions

Innovation reduces environmental impact and cuts costs

Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355). Image credit: Illinois Tollway
Traffic on the Des Plaines River Valley Bridge on the Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355). Credit: Illinois Tollway
Applied Research Associates, Inc. (ARA), has helped the Illinois Tollway save more than $250 million in highway construction costs by offering consulting services leading to better pavement and material designs and specifications.

The tollway recently reviewed construction costs and found implementing more innovative and sustainable material specifications, along with recycling roadway material, contributed to savings of more than $300 million between 2004 and 2017.

ARA currently serves the Illinois Tollway providing pavement and infrastructure management services, including annual research, planning, and programming activities that enhance the tollway’s decision making on billions of dollars of roadway assets.

Bill Vavrik, ARA’s Tollway lead notes, “It’s exciting to work with an organization that is willing to implement innovations. Looking back we can see real cost savings while maintaining high performance infrastructure.”

The 292-mile tollway system is comprised of four interstates. It was created in 1958 as a bypass around Chicago, connecting Indiana and Wisconsin, and currently carries more than 1.4 million vehicles per day.

With large capital improvement programs initiated at the Illinois Tollway over the past 12 years – the Congestion Relief Program (CRP) and Move Illinois Program – tollway officials wanted to make the most of those dollars.

They hired ARA as a consultant, and ARA has helped the tollway as it implemented best practices, producing new standards and policies for pavements, materials and recycling. They saved millions of dollars annually in capital program costs as the tollway system was reconstructed and expanded, without compromising the durability or longevity of roadways.

ARA used the latest research and performance information to develop a pavement rehabilitation method using rubblization, which involves crushing and recycling existing pavement to form a new base, eliminating the cost of excavation and hauling in virgin material.

Though rapid field testing, ARA, along with industry and university partners, also tested new aggregate and asphalt mix designs to help the tollway realize its sustainability and economic improvement goals.

As a consultant, ARA’s primary focus is to provide collection and expert analysis of pavement and infrastructure performance, work that is required for the efficient operation of maintenance and engineering at the tollway.

Each year, ARA collects pavement condition data and updates pavement performance models, activities that allow the prediction of future infrastructure condition and are provide critical input into capital and maintenance planning and budgeting. ARA’s Pavement Management System is the basis for the Tollway’s capital and maintenance program development.

“We’re collecting and analyzing data, deploying research, and implementing innovative strategies that make a difference for our customers and our customer’s customers.” - Bill Vavrik, ARA Vice President & Principal Engineer

Read more about the valuable infrastructure services ARA provides here.

About ARA
Applied Research Associates was founded in 1979 and is an employee-owned scientific research and engineering company dedicated to solving critical national problems to improve our safety, security and way of life. ARA has earned significant recognition in National Security, Transportation, Energy & Environment, and Health & Human Safety and has set standards of excellence in service and technology that extend into new territory. ARA is the company that government and industry turn to for innovative technologies and solutions with employees who have the expertise to tackle the most challenging technical problems.

Bill Vavrik