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Illinois Tollway Opens First State-of-the-Art, Fully Redesigned Oases

New Over-the-Road Pavilions at O'Hare and Belvidere Oases Offer Motorists Dramatically Improved Facilities, Food and Retail Options

CHICAGO, June 30 -- The Illinois Tollway with Wilton Partners today opened the first two fully redesigned Tollway Oases at O'Hare and Belvidere. The over-the-road pavilions were dramatically redesigned as part of a comprehensive plan to improve customer service on the Illinois Tollway, and feature a bounty of food, retail and commuter conveniences.

"We are thrilled to open these new oases before the busy Fourth of July weekend to provide local commuters and travelers through Illinois with a clean, convenient facility that offers more choices and better service," said Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich. "These sparkling new buildings are symbolic of the Tollway's reform agenda and the new emphasis on putting the customer first," he added.

The new Oases feature a variety of tenants offering a wide selection of food, beverage and retail options to motorists. Tenants at the new Oases include: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts; a full-service McDonald's with drive-thru and McTreats Kiosk; Panda Express; Starbucks Coffee; Stonebridge Gyros & Cafe; Subway; Tropicana Smoothies, Juices and More!; Fifth Third Bank ATMs; and Travel Mart convenience store. A business station offering wireless Internet access is also planned for each Oasis to maximize convenience to commuters on the Tollway.

"These striking new facilities offer a variety of brand-name restaurants, state-of-the-art amenities and more services to come," said Tollway Executive Director Jack Hartman. "They're certain to be a welcome stop for commuters and vacationers because they're on your way, every day."

Five Oases locations already feature rebuilt Mobil fuel stations with new On The Run(TM) convenience stores offering fast refueling and snacks. New fuel stations will also have car washes where possible. All of the new Mobil fuel pumps will be equipped with Speedpass(TM), enabling customers to use a key tag to pay for fuel instead of cash or credit cards. The additional Mobil stations at the DeKalb and Hinsdale oases should be complete by year's end.

National real estate developer Wilton Partners, along with ExxonMobil, is investing more than $100 million in capital to improve all seven Illinois Tollway Oases, at no cost to the Tollway or its customers. The innovative public-private partnership provides for payment of all the Oases' operating costs and expenses by Wilton Partners. A portion of revenue also will be set aside for future repair needs to ensure that the new Oases remain fresh and do not fall into disrepair.

"We are proud to be working with the Tollway to provide motorists with this high level of customer service in dramatic surroundings," said Jay Wilton of Wilton Partners. "Every detail of the building design was thoughtfully planned with the customer in mind. Motorists will feel comfortable and safe visiting these travel pavilions and will have all their travel and commuter needs met by the high-quality retailers at each Oasis. These Oases are destined to become daily stops for millions of Tollway customers."

Planning for the Illinois Tollway Oases Redevelopment Project began with in-depth research to determine what features and amenities were important to drivers, and the new Oases buildings mark a dramatic departure from the former imposing concrete structures. The over-the-road pavilions span the Tollway with a streamlined steel structure and breathtaking window curtain walls, allowing natural light into the building from a full 360-degrees. The new structures are more than twice as tall as their predecessors, featuring almost 30-foot ceilings and an expanded footprint, with the new facilities measuring more than 300-feet in length and 170-feet in width. The over-the-road span is approximately 135-feet long and 72-feet wide.

Where previously blocked by the tenant restaurants, the views to the roadway on both sides of the building have been fully restored to create openness and provide visitors with lateral views. The exposed steel truss framing inside increases the sense of height and openness even further.

"The design is meant to transform an Illinois icon of the auto age into a destination for the 21st century," stated John Clark, Partner at Cordogan, Clark and Associates, the architectural firm that created the new Oases' designs. "The challenge was to seamlessly incorporate the latest advances in technology with the sense of excitement generated when the concept of transportation centers first emerged. Our architectural team drew on several sources of inspiration in the design of these travel pavilions."

The colors of the interior elements and seating areas are warm tones of white, wheat and soft black, chosen to provide a neutral backdrop for the Oases' retail activity. Energy and brighter colors have been added through individual tenant signage and rotating banners hanging from the ceiling. Chicago museums and local communities plan to have banners on display.

The glass for the windows is one-inch thick insulating, transparent glass with a special coating to increase energy efficiency. The Oases feature indirect lighting in the steel trusswork to prevent any distracting glare for visitors or motorists driving on the Tollway. The Oases will also feature increased exterior lighting in the parking lots and more than 10 security cameras monitored in an on-site security room and by an off-site security company to enhance safety for patrons.

The new Oases feature more than four times as many restroom stalls, including men's and women's restrooms on both sides of the building with automatic flushing toilets and automatic sinks. The restroom partitions are stainless steel, and each restroom features a skylight over the sink area to provide natural light. There are also two family restrooms in each Oasis with private toilet and changing tables. A full-time janitorial staff will be on- site at all times to keep all public areas of the Oases clean for visiting customers.

Outside of the buildings, landscaping includes native shrubbery and drought-resistant plants, such as prairie grasses and flowering perennials. A dog walk kennel has also been added on both sides of each Oasis to provide an exercise and bathroom area for families traveling with their pets.

Six of the seven oases will be completely redeveloped, with the DeKalb Oasis on the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88) being extensively remodeled and expanded. All are underway and will be open by the end of 2005. McHugh Construction is the primary contractor for the project, Knight E/A is the engineer and Cordogan, Clark & Associates is the architect. All firms are Chicago-based.

This project will create an estimated 700 construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs in retail service and maintenance throughout the seven sites.

  The seven Illinois Tollway Oases include:

   -- Belvidere Oasis, Northwest Tollway (I-90) near Mile Post 55, in
      Belvidere, built in 1959
   -- DeKalb Oasis, Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88) near Mile Post 93,
      in DeKalb, built in 1975
   -- Des Plaines Oasis, Northwest Tollway (I-90) near Mile Post 1, in Des
      Plaines, built in 1959
   -- Hinsdale Oasis, Tri-State Tollway (I-294) near Mile Post 26, in
      Hinsdale, built in 1959
   -- Lake Forest Oasis, Tri-State Tollway (I-94) near Mile Post 58, in Lake
      Forest, built in 1959
   -- Lincoln Oasis, Tri-State Tollway (I-80/94) near Mile Post 1, in South
      Holland, built in 1968
   -- O'Hare Oasis, Tri-State Tollway (I-294) near Mile Post 38, in Schiller
      Park, built in 1959