Would You Pay for Better Roads?

Jane Addams Tollway
Paying more at the tollbooth for better roads is a question being discussed in and around Chicago, which happens to be home to Cars.com’s headquarters. That’s because the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority has come up with a plan that supposedly would decrease congestion and create jobs, but motorists would have to pay dearly for it. Or would they?

The plan includes $8.32 billion in road improvements to some of Chicago’s busiest highways and another $3.83 billion in brand-new highways, interchanges and ramps.

The project’s biggest part is the reconstruction of the Jane Addams Tollway — a turnpike that connects Chicago’s northwest suburbs to O’Hare International Airport and downtown Chicago, as well as serving as the throughway to Rockford, Ill. The road is in such a state of disrepair that ISTHA says 80% of the road surface is already in need of major repair. Speaking from personal experience, driving this highway is typically a nightmare.

Among other improvements, the $2.37 billion investment into the road would add an additional lane of traffic both ways, allowing for an additional 30,000 cars to use the road each day. The improvements are estimated to shave 25 minutes from the 30-mile drive from the suburbs to Chicago, according to the ISTHA’s own research.

That sound you hear is Cars.com senior editor David Thomas shouting in ecstasy at the thought of a smoother commute.

The plan also includes adding a high-occupancy toll lane for a mass transit option such as express buses (shown above) or a suburb-to-suburb commuter train.

New roadways include adding an interchange that would connect two major highways (Interstates 294 and 57) in Chicago’s southwestern suburbs. It’s one of only two places in the nation where interstates cross but do not connect, says ISTHA.

This sounds like a good plan, so what’s the catch? The Illinois Tollway is a user-funded system that receives no tax dollars, so all the money for these updates would have to come from the tolls collected. Tolls would effectively double in many places to pay for the new roads. A car using the electronic toll collection system, called I-Pass, would pay $1.40 each trip, up from 70 cents today, on the Jane Addams Tollway. Motorist paying cash would be forced to pay $2.80 per trip, up from $1.40 now. If you used the I-Pass during your commute to and from Chicago on the Jane Addams Tollway every work day that’s an extra $336 to your commute costs every year.

Is paying double to drive the roads you use currently worth a speedier commute home? Tell us in the comment section below, along with any information about road projects going on where you live.

By Colin Bird | August 9, 2011 | Comments (6)
Tags: In The News


Question Mark

I doubt the integrity of the State to properly appropriate these funds. Last time they tried this on 294 here in Chicago (I think), they were supposed to lift the tolls in 30 yrs. Guess what, 30 yrs later, they appropriated the funds to other gov't programs and keep on collecting tolls. It's the Chicago way.


Misappropriation of funds is not limited to Chicago. I have driven across many toll roads and turnpikes and the people paying the tolls are not getting what they paid for - which is better roads. On many of these roads a driver gets timed from when they enter the road to when they exit and if you have exceeded the speed limit there's a citation waiting for you at the toll booth. It happened to me for going 10mph over the speed limit and I showed up at the exit point 10 minutes earlier than expected. They make a lot of money on the speed citations as well, but those don't make it to pay for road repairs either.


Only if there is no speed limit.

Otherwise get rid of such an 'authority'

maybe, they earned only enough for maintenance and minimal profit, huh!


I'm from NYC, not Chi-Town but I would gladly pay the higher toll rates for safer and less congested roads.

We have lots of roads in NYC that are in dire need of repairs. I'll pay higher tolls and/or taxes for great roads with regular maintenance.

many would be willing to pay just to have better and alternate roads..

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