Chicago is one of the great restaurant cities in America, but some suburban residents prefer to eat out closer to home. In fact, locals have become so enamored with the new dining options at tollway rest areas that the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority is working to ease pedestrian access and construct parking spaces along local access roads.
Belvidere Mayor Fred Brereton reports that McDonald's, Starbucks, Panda Express and other fast-food establishments at his tollway "oasis" have been a big draw for residents as well as travelers since they were renovated this past summer. "It's an attractive environment," Brereton says. "If you're going out with family or friends, it gives you some variety to choose from."
In Schiller Park, near O'Hare airport, the Starbucks has even become a big hangout for teenagers. "The fact that the oasis does have some places that people want to go to makes it a plus," says village manager Kevin Barr. "Otherwise, it would just be unpleasant with trucks and cars going through."
The state has addressed some of the safety concerns that were raised by local residents trying to make their way to a food court that's located in the middle of a busy roadway, Barr notes. And, he adds, the facility's unexpected popularity has brought a welcome revenue boost to city coffers. "Obviously, we always look at that positively."