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Illinois Tollway – what “competitive advantage”?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Interstate Highway System

Illinois Tollway – what “competitive advantage”?

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
August 1, 2011

Friday’s Chicago Tribune and Saturday’s Northwest Herald sent shivers through thousands of drivers by announcing the Tollway’s proposed $12,000,000,000 (that’s $12 BILLION) capital plan.

A few people on August 25th will yawn, blink and nod an OK for a massive project that will result in huge increases in tolls for vehicle operators. Many tolls will increase 90% (or more). And the Tollway will really sock it to cash toll payers.

A “standard” $0.40 toll (such as in either direction at Elgin on I-90) will increase from $0.40 to $0.75.

Now, keep in mind how easy it is for the Tollway to increase tolls. All they have to do is re-program a computer to zing your I-Pass transponder for the additional $0.35. You don’t get to voice your displeasure at a toll collector. You don’t even see your account balance declining. It’s just ka-ching, ka-ching, and the extra money is gone from your pocket.

Here’s the real rip-off. Tolls will go up (is there any doubt how the Tollway Board will vote?) by $0.35 at Elgin, UNLESS you are a cash customer. A cash customer now pays $0.80 at the Elgin plaza. How much will that $0.80 toll increase? Just the same $0.35 as for other drivers?

No way. The Tollway is going to sock it to cash-paying customers by continuing to double the toll, if you pay in cash. So that $0.40 that became $0.80 will jump to $1.60. Is there an increased collection cost? Absolutely not!

In fact, the “extra” $0.40 per vehicle (for paying cash) must already be a tidy profit center for the Tollway. It must exceed the cost of collecting the cash tolls, especially since the Tollway has been incurring cash-collection costs ever since coming into existence. That’s merely part of their operating expense.

Remember the promise that Tollway bonds would be paid off, and then the roadway would be “free”? Ever hear “Free in ‘73”? Yeah, sure… and be sure to remember that this is Illinois!

How much should the cash toll increase? Not more than the $0.35 that an I-Pass user pays. Will there be a massive Class Action lawsuit on this issue? Who will be the first attorney to go for the brass ring?

Oh, and the juicy part? Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said that “these infrastructure improvements that are needed to keep our competitive advantage.” Just what “competitive advantage” is that? Is the Tollway competing with another major freeway or toll road?

Tollway planners believe the capital plan will create 120,000 permanent jobs. Rrrrrrrrright….. Keep laughing until the August 25th Board meeting at the Tollway headquarters, then reach for the crying towel.

And, if you want a head start on the tears, be at the Huntley Municipal Complex, 10987 Main Street, on Friday, August 19, 7:00-9:00PM, when one of the public hearings on the capital plan will be held. Now, you think they really want the public there? Whoever heard of a public hearing on a Friday night at 7:00PM??? (Probably overtime for the Tollway representatives…)

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