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Toll Hike Has Not Brought Anticipated Mass-Exodus From Tollways

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Tollway

The Illinois Tollway. (Credit: CBS)

Felicia Middlebrooks Felicia Middlebrooks
38-year veteran journalist Felicia Middlebrooks has co-anchored the...
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DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. (CBS) — Tolls went up in Illinois nearly a year ago, but if you think most drivers took alternate routes to avoid paying more, you’d be wrong.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Felicia Middlebrooks reports, fees shot up on Illinois tollways on January 1 of this year. They rose an extra 35 or 45 cents for I-Pass users, and almost double for cash payers.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Felicia Middlebrooks reports

But the expected mass-exodus of drivers trying to save money didn’t occur, Illinois Toll Highway Authority executive director Kristi LaFleur tells the Chicago Tribune.

LaFleur tells the newspaper that says passenger traffic did drop a bit – 2.6 percent – in the first half of the year. But that drop was far less steep than tollway officials expected.

It seems, she told the newspaper, that drivers using alternate routes get nowhere fast. So they just resign themselves to higher fees.

The tollway system said previously that it expected to lose about 6 percent of drivers after the toll increase went into effect.

Because of the higher tolls, the system as of May had increased revenue to $224 million, compared to the $157 million the tollway took in during the same period last year.

As of Jan.1, the 40-cent basic rate toll for I-Pass users – unchanged since 1983 – went up to 75 cents. Drivers who paid cash saw their 80 cent toll go up to $1.50.

Other toll plazas now cost even more. For example, the Waukegan Toll Plaza on I-94 now costs $1.40 (I-Pass) and $2.80 (cash).

An interest group, Taxpayers United of America, filed a lawsuit last year seeking to block the increases by challenging the Toll Highway Authority’s right to charge tolls at all. The group said when the tollways were created in 1953, they were supposed to be turned into freeways within 20 years once the original bonds to fund construction were paid off.

A judge dismissed the lawsuit in December.

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