CHICAGO (STMW) — The Illinois Tollway director said Monday that a proposed toll increase could be about 50 percent less and still keep the existing 286-mile system in good shape for the next 10 years.

Bill Morris said given the weak economy, it is too much to expect commuters to shoulder a 35-cent increase per toll, when a 15 cent one would be adequate.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to do all of this increase at one time in this economy when we can get by with 15 cents,” Morris said.

Morris’ alternative proposal comes as a series of public hearings get under way this week to discuss the proposed 35-cent increase, which the Illinois State Tollway Authority unveiled in July. The Tollway board of directors was expected to vote on the increase at its Aug. 25 meeting.

But Morris said the 15-cent increase would allow for planned improvements to the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90), as well as the first phase of the Elgin-O’Hare West Bypass and an interchange linking the Tri-State Tollway (I-294) with Interstate 57. The board could then review the capital plan and toll rates every three years, Morris said.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)