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Lower I-Pass minimum balance draws 5,600 takers on 1st day

About 5,600 people asked to reduce their required minimum I-Pass balance on Wednesday — the first day a basket of Illinois Tollway discounts became available, officials say.

Commuters must sign up for most of the discounts by Dec. 31.

“We had a great response,” Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said Thursday after an address to the City Club of Chicago.

In addition, more than 600 people signed up for a new I-Pass Wednesday — more than double the number that signed up the previous Wednesday .

In advance of the Tollway’s fourth electronic-only interchange opening this month, the Tollway Wednesday began offering lower upfront costs for an I-Pass account — only $30 instead of the current $50 or $60 — through Dec. 31.

In addition, the deposit required to obtain an I-Pass transponder has been permanently reduced from $20 to $10.

The most popular new discount that kicked off Wednesday was one for new and existing customers — an offer to lower the minimum balance that must be kept in an I-Pass account from $40 to $20. Such a reduction sought by Dec. 31 is permanent, but the window to get it is only open through Dec. 31.

To take advantage of the offers, customers can call 800-824-7277 weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or visit one of the Tollway’s customer service centers.

To change existing accounts to the lower replenishment levels, drivers can go to www.getipass.com but to open new accounts with the “sale” rates, they need to call or visit a customer service center, Tollway spokeswoman Wendy Abrams noted.

The offers come as the Tollway prepares to open the new I-294/I-57 interchange, which will not have a cash payment option. Lafleur said Thursday the system’s fourth electronic-only interchange would open “later this month” but would not give an exact date.

Lafleur said the Tollway has tried to “strike a balance” as it opens new interchanges. Electronic-only sections reduce congestion, make the roadways safer and require fewer lanes, she said. In addition, Illinois belongs to an EZ-Pass system that accepts transponders from 15 states, she noted.

During her City Club of Chicago address, Lafleur said the Tollway is working develop a cutting-edge software system that will support smartphone-based tolling, provide text message alerts that notify drivers about their I-Pass accounts and allow easier online resolution of outstanding violations or other account issues.

“By the time our system goes live next year, we will be at the forefront of the industry — light years ahead of what many other toll agencies are doing in terms of customer service and technology,” Lafleur said.

The $2.5 billion reconstruction and widening of the Jane Addams I-90 alone includes $17.5 million in smart technology enhancements that should allow 25 percent more capacity, Lafleur said.

By the time the 62 miles of Jane Addams work ends in 2016 , “you won’t recognize it,” LaFleur said. “It will be one of the most technologically equipped, state-of-the-art roadways in the nation, if not the world.”