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Tollway Gets Range of Opinions On Toll Hike

Officials hold public hearing in Huntley on plan to increase tolls, attracts a standing room crowd.

Algonquin resident Mike Poll came to the Illinois Tollway’s public hearing Friday night to speak his mind about a proposed 35-cent toll hike.

Poll pays $800 a year in tolls. The increase would mean another $800, he said.

“To me that’s insane,” Poll said. “I don’t have that kind of money. We are just getting out of the recession. Unfortunately, we lost 25 percent of our income. Now you are asking us (to pay) another $800 just to drive to work.”

Tollway officials came to Huntley Village Hall to give information and take public input on a proposal that would increase tolls by 35-cents. The increase would help pay for $12 billion in capital projects.

A few projects that would affect McHenry and Kane counties directly is the Interstate 90 and Route 47 interchange and the rebuilding and widening I-90 from O’Hare to Rockford. I-90 is considered a priority, Rocco Zucchero, Deputy Chief of Engineering for Planning said.

The is planned for the 2013-2014 year at this point, Zucchero said. If the toll increase is passed, the tollway could move up the project to 2012, he said.

“The increase is an investment in our future,” said Bob Rollings, a Huntley resident, of the tollway’s capital projects. “It is a good step in the right direction to make our community more competitive,” he said, adding Huntley badly needs a tollway interchange at Interstate 90 and Route 47.

“No one is offering other ideas to improve the economy,” Rollings said.

Speakers ranged from engineers to construction workers to businessmen to public officials during the two-hour hearing. A majority of those who spoke in support focused on job creation and the impact on the economy.

But the detractors were equally vocal.

Cal Skinner, a former legislator from Crystal Lake, said anyone who uses the toll pays twice, in motor fuel taxes and tolls. The tollway should be thinking outside the box and tap into other revenue sources like the motor fuel tax and federal aid, he said.

Instead of seeking money from those sources, the tollway is asking motorists to pay an 88 percent toll increase on top of the increase in the state’s income tax passed earlier this year, he said.

“This is a Pat Quinn toll increase,” Skinner said. “You are representing him at this meeting.”

Zucchero and Director Thomas Canham did not respond to any of the comments but earlier in the meeting, Zucchero said the tollway had not increased tolls since 1983.

“We realized this is a significant step but it’s a long time coming and this is what’s needed to move these projects along today,” Zucchero said.

Michael Shotwell, a Huntley resident, leaves at 5 a.m. to beat traffic when he drivers to Chicago for work. He said he supports the increase because it will bring more jobs and relieve congestion.

Poll, however, did not walk away convinced the increase would be a good thing.

“This is a stacked crowd all looking for a job with the Illinois Tollway,” he said. “Of course they want it.”

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