Robert J. Schillerstrom — Illinois Tollway Chairman Pushes Innovation, Diversity
Robert J. Schillerstrom
Downers Grove, Ill.
ENR 2/1-8/16 p. 22
Promoting a cutting-edge culture of innovation, customer service and diversity.
When you have a 15-year, $12-billion construction program for your tollway road system, “all things are possible,” says Robert J. Schillerstrom, board chairman of the Illinois Tollway. “We want to explore all opportunities.”
That goes for both technology and diversity. On the technology side, the authority not only is pushing for a cashless, all-electronic system but also is allowing materials engineers and contractors to use stretches of road to test new types of concrete mixes, more efficient or sustainable paving methods, and a load-plate system that measures subgrade conditions.
“We’re striving to find efficient and better ways to serve our customers through technology and innovation,” says Schillerstrom, a lawyer by training. His initial involvement with the tollway authority was in the planning of a new, $3.4-billion western extension of Route 390 to O’Hare Airport that is expected to create 65,000 jobs over the next 25 years. As a long-term chairman of DuPage County, Schillerstrom helped to form a bipartisan stakeholder coalition that enabled the project.
As tollway chairman, Schillerstrom aims to “unsilo our relationships with the Illinois Dept. of Transportation and with public transit agencies.” He also has doubled down on increasing contracts and training for minority-, women- and veteran-owned firms. “We serve diverse communities, and we wanted the people who work on tollway jobs to be representative of those communities,” he says. In 2016, the tollway awarded some $1 billion in DBE contracts and commissioned a report with 27 recommendations on diversity. Schillerstrom’s efforts led to recognition by the U.S. Minority Contractors Association, whose founder, the Rev. Larry Bullock, stated, “Schillerstrom’s involvement with the USMCA, its board members and general membership is illustrative of a genuine partnership as we all seek to build capacity via tollway projects.”