Big Illinois Tollway Fare Hike: Will You Or Won't You?

Big Illinois Tollway Fare Hike: Will You Or Won't You?

With the impending Illinois Tollway Board vote to unilaterally increase the tolls, I get the feeling that some people will begin looking for alternatives. Personally - I don't blame them. So my question is simple - will you or won't you submit to these increases?

Naturally I would think that the decision will be based on whatever your personal circumstances and/or preferences are. I am sure the Tollway Authority has already done an internal study as to what the fallout rate will be, but, given their propensity for fuzzy math and logic - who knows how accurate their numbers are. In the end, though, I believe people have finally figured out that we are being nickeled and dimed across-the-board ever since the Huckster Quinn has taken office.

Don't get me wrong here, I clearly understand the need for more revenues. However, it has become abundantly clear that our hapless huckster and his legislative goons will put those revenue increases squarely onto the backs of citizens while largely ignoring the business sectors obligation to contribute their fair share. But hey - what's new?

Look, anyone old enough to remember when the "original tollway bonds" were issued would tell you that these bonds should have been retired long, long ago. Instead, the Tollway Authority has found a way to just keep reissuing them. This, in spite of the fact that the re-issues have gone above and beyond the original scope of those bonds. Seems to me that there should have been multiple referendums since the first bonds were issued to get public approval for any new projects.

The original bonds were never intended to be extended into perpetuity!

The Illinois Tollway, though, is what it is - a money pit. Patronage and theft are common denominators when it comes to their financial woes and quite frankly - requires us all to Feed The Pig. The fact that Governor Quinn said that the Tollway has to "do what it needs to do" ensures that the sham public hearings and citizen comments went for naught. Expect the maximum increase from the political appointees because that is what they intended to do from the get go. But it will come with a cost.

Somehow our clueless legislature and an even more clueless governor has shown that the only solutions they can offer the people of Illinois are a bevy of higher fees and taxes. Now I don't know who in state government decided that the recession is over - but I think that assumption  was premature. State unemployment is still far too high to sustain economic growth. And as with any type of over-saturation - the predicted revenue numbers will not be met.

Speaking of numbers - this notion that 120,000 jobs will be created is nothing more than illusion too. Let's face it, when it comes to building highways - the same favored contractors will be awarded the projects. Of course there are only so many contractors able to do such jobs, but since they have been favored for so long - it has all been pretty much a Gravy Train for them. So it was never about "new" jobs - just the same old cast of players and their employees. Now I do realize that some workers have been laid-off from these usual firms and that workers will be recalled - but lget this straight - it isn't about new jobs!

The people who are commuting to their minimum-wage jobs won't be plucked from their vehicles to build these roads - but they will be asked to pay a substantial part of the burden just the same. Of course they are probably the least able to pay those increased tolls so I guess arterial streets and state roads will see an increase in traffic. It will be slower - but they will get there just the same.

As for me - well I will keep my two transponders but instead of taking I-294 to I-90 to get to my doctor appointment, I will just take the "Stevie" down to Lake Shore Drive and backdoor it to the old neighborhood. Besides, I usually go on Saturday's and that is actually a nicer drive along the lakefront in the morning anyhow. The distance is about the same and only adds 15 minutes at the most - so what the heck. But, I am fortunate enough to reside close enough to I-55 and I-80 these days and most of my travels can be done on Freeways - so I really feel for those who do not have the same options.

Like I said, it will come down to individual circumstances and preferences.

However, I still don't believe that the proposed increases are justified. Then again, I don't believe that any increase is justified until there is a true and deep forensic audit of state government. And I mean an audit from top-to-bottom. And if our Hapless Huckster says something to the effect that he has already implemented transparency initiatives - then I want to know why so much information is still incomplete or missing from Sunshine, the state's online accountability project?

Of course the reason for that is pretty obvious, you know?


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  • As I noted a couple of times when Byrne started his series on this being tied to O'Hare expansion, I quit using the Tollway when non-IPass tolls were doubled, so raising them another 87% doesn't make a difference. If I want to go to Wisconsin, I'll take Ill. 43. If I want to get to the Lisle area, I take old Ill. 53 through Flowerfield (yes there is such a place).

    In fact this (combined with the Skyway) is one of the few places in Illinois where free enterprise economics gets a trial. I thought it was fairly outrageous when a bankruptcy court mandated a tripling of tolls on the Skyway (I guess in the 80s), but suddenly (with the opening of the Hammond casino), it became profitable enough for Daley to lease it out.

    Since this is not a forced exaction, stuff like libs on the CTA Tattler advocating doubling the gas tax and giving it to transit are not comparable in my calculus.

    Mentioning lame ducks, State Sen. Garrett got on the Tollway's case because the last set of hikes sent trucks down US 41, bypassing the triple hit at the Waukegan Toll Plaza. The trucks are still there (as indicated by a story today about a fatal truck crash on 41), but Garrett says she is leaving.

  • In reply to jack:

    Flowerfield (YES - just south of Lombard by Four Seasons Park) LOL used to live in Lombard.

    As for the Tollway - it just irks me that the original bonds keep being re-issued. Seems to me there should be some sort of expiration and any new bonds be put before the citizens. But hey - Illinois has their own way of doing things. But as long as voters stay oblivious to the BIG Picture - it will go on and on and on.

    My use of the Tollway is way down over the last few years myself. I actually like Old 53 whenever I go back to Lombard. Kingery (Rte 83) is good too. I am sure people will adjust and as such the state won't see near the amount they projected. It is kind of like the ridiculous Chicago / Cook County whammy - people went to other counties or Indiana for big purchases. Then again the airlines have stuck it to Chicago too by setting up their fuel costs taxes in Sycamore. Looks like everybody is adjusting. Ha Ha,

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    Chuck Goudie's I Team last night said that the Toll Highway law was changed in 1968 to eliminate the "eventually free" requirement. Apparently that was kept "hush hush" through the Ryan years. Of course, no one believed his story that if we adopted his I-Pass plan, the tollways would be free in another 20 years.*

    As far as the sales tax whammy, it is one thing that I decided to make more purchases north of Lake Cook Road (I check internet sites for gas prices on both sides before filling up),. but at least the merchants are located there.** It shows how irretrievably screwed up this state is that companies can set up shell offices in some hick town and get a sales tax rebate, when they are doing business and have either physical facilities or deliver goods in their own trucks in Cook County.*** Then, some idiot legislator from Olympia Fields wanted to codify the practice.

    *A similar con was run by Pat Monyahan, who got some bill saying that the NY Thruway would get some federal money if it became free in the mid 90s. It had a provision saying that the Thruway could pay it back without interest, which it did and did not become free.

    **I wondered how Plass Appliances could afford to move across the street from Highland Park to Northbrook, when there was at the time about a 2 point difference in the sales tax. While HP apparently raised theirs, it was reported that Plass had a similar deal.

    ***In the airlines' case, they used to say that they fill up elsewhere, but I guess they didn't. If Sycamore wants to build a "gas station" airport, that's one thing, but it appears that the fuel truck is going to the plane in Chicago.

  • In reply to jack:

    You certainly bring up valid points; et al.
    The 1968 Law must have been hush hush since I don't recall it being "front page news" but then again it could have been tucked neatly away in the deeper sections. As for Ryan and his I-Pass spiel, well I must admit I never took it seriously nor did I think the tolls would stay fixed for subscribers as promised. It was just a matter of time.

    The jet fuel confuses me though. When I worked in Franklin Park and Bensenville - you had fuel farms with direct pipelines to O'Hare (still do) so wouldn't that be the POP based on inventory definitions? How they get around that with simply moving paperwork is a real sham.

    Plass Appliances was a great example too. A 2 point difference in consumer goods is a big deal, given the competitiveness of the business - so I understand it. I mean that is what the hubbub is about with Amazon.

    I am like you in that I live in Will County but I am mere minutes away from Kendell and Grundy - so price exploration is practiced in our household. Especially since Joliet, Plainfield and now Shorewood have home rule for taxes. Shorewood seems the best thus far, but are catching up in its application. Grundy is by far the best for gasoline and that is where we go 95% of the time (but discounts from Jewel and Dominicks make it worthwhile in Shorewood too.

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    Just about all the villages here have home rule sales taxes. The Illinois Dept. of Revenue has a site for general sales taxes in all locations (including splitting Buffalo Grove and Deerfield between Cook and Lake Counties), but those apparently don't include meal taxes.

    It is bad enough that the percentage of sales tax varies from receipt to receipt, but now with the business of collecting the sales tax of Channahon, it becomes even more confusing. Note, that Plass was not collecting the 9.25% (formerly 9.75%) in Northbrook or 8% in Highland Park, but whatever the percent was in its shell office (that is if the reports, such as this one in the Daily Herald are correct), and having most of the local portion rebated to it.

    But is it amazing that all the dumbos in this state (except in the tax havens) haven't figured it out.

    Amazon comes within the National Bellas Hass case, where the U.S. Supreme Court said that Illinois can't collect use tax from a mail order firm that doesn't have a situs in Illinois. As you point out, the oil companies do have a situs in Franklin Park.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thanks for the link.

    Yeah I agree with the dumbo statement.

    I understand the Amazon thing, but thanks for the Legal Reference. Yes indeed though, the oil companies have been pulling a fast one and am surprised it just came to light? What was that about? It wasn't as if people, and politicians haven't seen those Inferno Tanks in front of their eyes right? I suppose the answer is that someone politically connected is involved with that spiel.

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    I know this is an old post but felt the need to comment as it's now February and the toll increases are already in place. The last time I paid the regular toll on my way to work was December 29. I have since re-routed my exit so as to avoid paying said toll. As a tax paying citizen of Illinois, I find it ludicrous that the city can just decide it wants to double the price of something we shouldn't be paying for in the first place. In any case, I'd rather waste commute time and gas money than give it to the government without fair reason. Before the government is allowed to raise such prices, the people should get a chance to see exactly where this money is being allocated. One thing is certain; I don't see it going to our city's school system, which consistently ranks among the bottom of the nation. I'd sure like one day's worth of tolls on any given expressway. Maybe I could then comfortably pay my bills and not mind paying taxes so much.

  • In reply to Ashley Brooke:

    I agree 1000% with you Ashley. Given that the Tollway Authority is nothing more than a repository of political hacks padding their pensions and giving inflated contracts to the likes of William Cellini and his Asphalt Association your assessment of the situation is spot on. The schools though, are funded via our property taxes and even that is unfair in its application. Not only that - the Governor seems to like redirecting those monies into the General Fund while leaving school districts hanging in the wind. Even the colleges are owed countless millions, although I don't feel as bad for them given the tuition and such.

    I have also stopped using the tollway and will continue to do so. So I am with you. Thanks for the comment and reading the blog.

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