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CHICAGO (STMW) – The Illinois Tollway board appears ready to hike I-Pass tolls from 15 cents to 90 cents per toll on Thursday, and Gov. Quinn says that’s what’s needed for the state to have good roads.
“An overwhelming number of folks support … the proposal,” Quinn said Wednesday. “I think it’s important that we understand in Illinois that we’re not going to be able to have safe roads and lessen congestion on the highways unless we invest.”
Tollway board member Bill Morris has argued for a lesser hike, but his appears to be a minority view. Quinn stopped short of formally urging board members to support the hike.
“I don’t direct the board to do anything,” Quinn said.
Under the proposal expected to pass Thursday, I-Pass tolls for passenger vehicles would range from 30 cents to $1.90, up from the current 15 cents to $1. Cash-paying passenger vehicles would pay double the I-Pass rate.
After hearing testimony from construction union members, elected officials and others about the benefits of widening the I-90 to Rockford, starting the western access to O’Hare and building a Tri-State-I-57 interchange, and how Illinois’ low toll rate compared to other regions, Quinn said he was confident board members would “do the right thing.”
Illinois’ transportation network is one of its selling points for luring businesses and jobs to the state, he said. A higher toll and better tollways will help maintain that reputation, he said.
“I don’t think anybody likes toll increases — who would like that? — but the bottom line is: Sometimes it’s necessary if you’re going to have less congestion. We have the most congested highways and tollways in the United States,” Quinn said.
Drivers will accept the higher tolls if it leads to shorter commutes, he said.
“I think a lot of people appreciate the fact they can get home faster — that saves them time and money,” Quinn said. “And we have not had a general toll increase since 1983.”
Under the proposed increase, the cost of a car trip on the Tollway system for an average I-PASS customer would rise to $1.18 – up from today’s average of 63 cents per trip, tollway officials said.
Quinn made his comments after signing three bills designed to clean up Illinois’ rivers. One bill, inspired by high school students from Pontiac and Antioch, will make it easier for people to drop off old prescription bottles in boxes to be left at local police stations and other drop-off points so those chemicals do not make it into Illinois rivers.
“Our mission is to make this river behind us fishable and swimmable by 2025,” Quinn said, gesturing to the Chicago River near Michigan Avenue.
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