Tollway Officials Hold Public Hearings On Fee Hikes

Updated 08/18/11 – 9:30 p.m.

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. (CBS) — A pair of public hearings were held Thursday evening to discuss the Illinois Toll Highway Authority’s proposal to raise tolls to pay for road improvements.

The tollway wants to spend $12 billion over the next 15 years to pay for capital improvement, funded by increased tolls on the tollways in the Chicago area.

The proposal calls for the basic 40-cent toll now paid by I-Pass users at most toll stations to rise to 75 cents. Cash users would go from 80 cents to $1.50.

As Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports, the plan met little opposition at one of the hearings, in Geneva. In fact, the testimony was dominated by the contractors and engineering firms who support it.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports

“I can’t believe anybody would oppose a 35-cent increase in tolls when I drive through Indiana, I drive through Ohio, I drive through Pennsylvania and the dollar amount on tolls is ridiculous compared to what we pay. I mean, we’re getting it dirt cheap,” Jeffrey Buchholz said.

Small business owner Richard Stark of Huntley was opposed.

“We put off capital improvements, we kept things running at a minimum and a tight ship, and I don’t understand why the tollroad can’t do the same thing,” he said.

Another opponent called the hearing a “contractor’s love fest.”

Tolls for people with the I-Pass remain at the same level as in 1983 – nearly three decades ago. But that does not mean the proposed increase is going down any easier.

“I think I pay enough already and we don’t need to pay any more,” motorist Art Lewey said.

“That’s ridiculous. Why should we double it when we’re paying our tax dollars other places already?” said Jeanelle Jackson.

Revenue from the toll hike would pay for a number of new projects: reconstruction of the Jane Addams Tollway, reconstruction I-90 from O’Hare International Airport to Rockford for the first time in 50 years, construction of a south suburban interchange between I-294 and I-57 and construction of an additional leg of the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway that still connects neither Elgin nor O’Hare.

“I think it’s probably positive because people need jobs,” Chey Priebel said.

But truckers only see a big increase in costs.

“We’re paying a lot of tolls, about $50 a day going back and forth from Milwaukee to Chicago and the way our economy is right now, it’s very bad,” said trucker Kujtim Mahmudi.

Other drivers said it’s another financial burden at a time when people are struggling.

“Putting more pressure on the people at a time when it’s already hard and making them double up on tolls right now, I think it’s a little extensive,” said motorist Demario Ranson.

Not everyone on the Tollway Board is in favor of the steep increase either. Tollway Board member Bill Morris has gone on record saying the authority should scale back its proposed hike for I-Pass users from 35 cents to 15 cents.

He said that would be sufficient for the projects the Tollway is seeking to fund.

The tollway was holding its first hearing at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Kane County Government Center, at 719 S. Batavia Ave. in Geneva, followed by a hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday at the DuPage County Government Center, at 421 N. County Farm Rd. in Wheaton.

  • Bill

    Is this the same toll that years ago at it’s inception,the politicians said would be temporary,just like Quinn’s tax hikes recently announced will become permanent?The game is this.Tell the taxpayers it’s temporary so they will accept it,then use time on the government side ,people will forget what the pol’s said,and then we’ll make itnpermanent.These thieves keep raising taxes because they don’t know how to manage OUR money!They don’t have to.They are very PROGRESSIVE AND LIBERAL with OUR MONEY!

    • Joe Patroni

      Yes, you made all of your income without any help from anybody. You did it all by yourself and drove your homeade car on your own road hewn from your own labor. You don’t need a court system, a banking system, weather service, police, fire, teachers becuase the “thieves” take YOUR money that is all YOURS earned soley by you without any possiblity of interconnecetedness. What happens if there is no government and the terrorists decide to come for you and your money?

      • Roberta Waker

        If they don’t do something about ILLEGAL immigration you will find out very soon about terrorists and no government. Mexico has a very corrupt government with NO Congress and NO Constitution, which is exactly what we will have when we allow the ILLEGALS to become a majority and give them amnesty. As for terrorists, they are already in this country because we don’t have secure borders. OUR money is money WE earned and spend; we elected people so they wouldn’t spend ALL of our money, but they are doing so in a very irresponsible manner. THAT needs to stop. A small toll increase would be acceptable, but this “temporary” tollway charge is getting out of hand. What are they doing with all the money from the gasoline tax that’s supposed to help pay for infrastructure? It’s time for some accountability.

  • Just Axiin

    This is only a dog and pony show. The toll board asks for a large amount knowing it will not get it but settles for something less. They think we’re stupid and for the most part they are right. Our focus should not be on these silly meetings as it’s already a done deal, not to mention the board is not beholden to voters. We should focus on state reps and state sen. and demand that the toll board (and chgo school board as well) should NOT have the ability to raise taxes.

    • Roberta Waker

      You are absolutely right. We need to pressure our elected “representatives” that are supposed to serve the taxpayers/voters. I wouldn’t mind a 15 cent increase, but what they are talking is crazy. Other states with great roads don’t have tolls at all. Write to your state reps and tell him to lighten up unless they want to give up THEIR raises and perks like we are doing.

  • Ready to Puke

    These hearings are meaningless. They’re designed to allow the public to vent then say they let the public in on the increases.

    In reality this increase is to give raises to public officials and billions of work to construction companies that will be required to give some of it back to Democrats campaign coffers just like it’s always been.

  • franklin808

    They should raise the tolls so they can create more jobs. The best way to get the economy going is from the government. Private industry is not spending their wealth.

    • Roberta Waker

      We know toll increases are already a done deal. The question is how much will they will rape us with the increase. Most people think 15 cents would be fair, yet the tolls were always supposed to be “temporary”. How can other states not charge anything to use their roads, which are better than those in Illinois? Maybe we should learn from them.

  • Jessie Fell

    Transportation defines Chicago. Chicago is the cross roads and the Tollway is an economic generator. If Chicago and Illinois are to effectively comepete, we need to modernize and maintain our infrastructure. Extending Rtoute 53, the Illiniana, expanding the Jane Adams, Elgin-O’hare. Look what happened in Minneapolis when you iignore infrastructure…

    • Roberta Waker

      Yes, we do need to maintain our infrastructure; but we need to do so EFFICIENTLY. Spending, spending, spending our tax dollars in an irresponsible manner is NOT what we need. How can other states support their infrastructure with better roads than we have without charging a toll? Maybe we need to look into this and not just raise tolls again and again for a system that was supposed to be “temporary”.

      • Joe Patroni

        Most states have Tollways. Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Texas, Indiana, Mass, NY,NJ,Vir, Fla, Ohio, Kansas, Co, CA, MN, Road pricing is the waive of the future, expecially since gasoline tax revenue will didminish..

  • Geri

    Here we go again, as times get tough for the real american peopel you kick us in the gut again. You need to focus on the money being given to the immigrants here in the country getting free food, education and schooling. Everyday I run into someone who, yes they are citizens but only because they married an american and divorced them after they became citizens, go back to their own country remarry get pregnant come back here to have the baby stay for 2 months and you do not see them for a couple of years, come back here and get free food, education, and child care. This is where we need to focus our attention on.

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