Making Dan Ryan, I-57 into tollways won’t stop expressway shootings

The bill is a non-solution to a serious problem. Are tollway shootings really rare because bad guys are too cheap to pay tolls?

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State police investigate the scene of a shooting Friday morning in the northbound lanes of the I-57 Expressway near 119th Street.

State police investigate a shooting on I-57 near 119th Street. Turning the expressway and the adjoining Dan Ryan into toll roads won’t solve the problem.

Justin Jackson/Sun-Times

The state has tried a number to ways to curb expressway shootings, such as the one that killed one person and seriously wounded another Tuesday on the Eisenhower near Cicero Avenue.

But state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-South Holland, wants to fight the problem in a way this editorial board finds quite odd: By turning the Dan Ryan Expressway and adjoining I-57 into toll roads.

An Illinois House resolution on the matter, sponsored by Jones, is up for the second of two legislative hearings on Thursday.

Jones’s resolution says converting the two expressways into state tollways “could serve to reduce violence by making it more difficult for these opportunistic shootings to take place.”

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Neither Jones nor his chief of staff returned calls seeking comment. But here’s the crux of it: Jones thinks that because there are fewer shootings on state tollways, then making motorists pay a fee to drive on the Ryan and I-57 will keep shooters off those roadways as well.

This wrongful conflation of causation and correlation would be comical, if the problem of expressway shootings — and Chicago gun violence in general — weren’t so serious.

A Dan Ryan Tollway?

States aren’t legally authorized on their own to turn federally-built roads into tollways. So Jones’s resolution, if passed, would only give Illinois permission to ask Congress for permission to put the expressways under the aegis of the Illinois Tollway Authority.

A tollway spokesperson said the agency has been monitoring the resolution, but has no position on it.

The resolution is before the General Assembly’s House Transportation, Regulation, Roads & Bridges Committee.

Illinois State Police have taken action in the wake of an uptick in expressway shootings over the past three years, including increased trooper patrols and installing license plate-reading cameras to help catch fleeing shooters.

But are tollway shootings rare because the bad guys are too cheap to pay the toll — or because the paid roadways are miles beyond the city limits?

Neither Jones’s office nor his resolution could say.

A burden on drivers

Turning the Ryan and I-57 into tollroads is a bad idea on its face. The measure would place an unfair tax on the motorists who safely travel those roadways each day, many of them to and from work, and it doesn’t address shootings on other expressways, such as the Eisenhower, where Tuesday’s violence happened.

It all adds up to a bill that should never find its way to passage. And if it does, Congress should deny the request.

Then state lawmakers can get back to finding serious ways to make Chicago and its expressways safer.

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