Replenish your I-PASS, tolls are going up.
Illinois Tollway Board members approved a 15-year, $12 billion capital plan during Thursday's board meeting in . Starting Jan. 1, most I-PASS drivers can expect to pay a 35-cent increase at the tolls to fund the project. Cash-paying toll users will see a 70-cent increase.
While 50 percent of Illinois Toll Plazas will carry the 35-cent increase for I-Pass users, other plazas will see a greater increase, ranging from 45 to 90 cents, while cash-paying toll users will be hit with an increase ranging from 90 cents to $1.80.
The board approved the capital plan with a vote of 7-1, with director William Morris casting the only no vote, largely because he felt the plan failed to make I-53 in Lake County and Northern Illinois the priority he felt it should be. A last-minute proposed amendment to the resolution aimed at giving I-53 a higher priority failed, as did an earlier amendment proposed by Morris to cut the toll increase from 35 cents to 20 cents.
Of the $12 billion plan, $8.32 billion is expected to go to existing tollway needs, which includes restructuring I-90, I-294 and I-94. Repairs and preservation projects are also expected on I-88 and I-355.
The remaining money is slated for new projects. The plan calls for a new I-90 corridor linking Rockford to O'Hare, linking I-294 and I-57, and the renovation and expansion of the Elgin O'Hare Expressway.
Statistics from the Tollway's 15 public hearings were given to the board prior to voting, and an additional round of public comments were heard, as well. There were 845 written comments and 431 spoken comments provided during the hearings, with 88 percent of the written comments supporting the plan and 81 percent of the spoken comments supporting.
When asked after the meeting if the overwhelming support they received during the public hearings could be trusted, Tollway Board Chair Paula Wolff felt they had done all they could to solicit public input.
“All we could capture were the number of people who came to the meetings and the comments made,“ she said, adding that a lot of effort was made to make people aware of the discussions and the meeting and the importance of their input.
Public concern during the hearing often focused on the impact increased tolls could have on low-income families. During the meeting, board members vowed to explore various options to ease the burden on certain segments of toll users.
Public comments during Thursday's meetings were largely in support of the plan and mostly featured labor representatives and others who stand to directly benefit from the jobs created by the plan.
Matt Hart, executive director of the Illinois Trucking Association, felt differently. Hart warned a continual increase in tolls to the trucking industry could result in more commercial vehicles opting to stay away from the tollways, creating an increase in traffic snarls and congestion on side roads.