Tollway flush with higher truck tolls, new driver toll points

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The Illinois Tollway logo. | Getty Images

Illinois truckers next year will face their third toll increase since 2014 and drivers will see seven new ramps with tolling points on the Jane Addams tollway under a tentative Illinois Tollway budget unveiled Wednesday.

Toll revenues and toll evasion recovery income is expected to increase by 6 percent next year, to $1.37 billion, as the Illinois Tollway kicks off the sixth year of a 15-year capital construction program.

The multiyear, $12 billion “Move Illinois” project is the largest in the Tollway’s history.

Construction barrels and barriers should be removed from the Jane Addams, also known as Interstate 90, by the end of this year, allowing seven new ramps between Barrington Road and Interstate 294 to collect tolls in 2017.

The good news for drivers in 2017 is that “It will be the first year with the Jane Addams wide open,” Illinois Tollway spokesman Dan Rozek said. “It will be a much faster, smoother trip.”

In addition, the Tollway will reap its first full year of revenue from three tolling points that opened on July 5 on the Elgin-O’Hare/Illinois Route 390 Tollway.

For truckers, 2017 will mark the third increase in Illinois truck tolls since 2014 as part of a congestion relief program approved in 2008, under the Rod Blagojevich administration.

The first of those increases took affect in 2015, when truck tolls went up 40 percent from 2014 rates. In 2016, they increased 10 percent from 2014 rates. Next year, they are supposed to go up an additional 10 percent from 2014 rates. That equals a 60 percent increase since 2014.

Trucking companies are none too happy about the toll increases, especially given that Illinois is one of the busiest trucking states in the nation, said Matt Hart, executive director of the Illinois Trucking Association.

The trucking association complained back in 2008, to no avail, Hart said.

Truck toll increases planned for 2017 alone should add “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to some trucking companies’ annual costs, Hart said.

“We are mad about it but we are going to do whatever we have to do to safely deliver the goods that people want,” Hart said.

Ultimately, however, higher tolls for trucks lead to higher prices for consumers on the goods that truckers transport, Hart said.

“We don’t mind paying our fair share, but we mind when more of the burden is on the trucking industry than cars,” Hart said. “Trucks account for a small percent of tollway traffic yet we account for over 40 percent of the revenue.”

The Tollway plans to spend $639 million on capital improvements and $336 million on maintenance and operations in 2017 for a total increase of $14 million.

Its budget includes continued work on the new Route 390 Tollway, planning for the new I-490 Tollway as part of the Elgin-O’Hare Western Access Project, more Jane Addams improvements, and continued planning and design for the reconstruction of the Central Tri-State Tollway (I-294).

The tentative budget was released to the Tollway’s Finance, Administration and Operations Committee on Wednesday. It will be reviewed by the full Tollway Board on Oct. 27 and then subject to public input.

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