An Illinois state board approved a massive toll hike Thursday to help fund an ambitious $12.1 billion construction plan to repair highways and bridges.
The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority voted to raise tolls for I-PASS users from 40 cents to 75 cents at most toll plazas - a nearly 88 percent bump. Drivers who pay cash will still have to pay double the I-PASS fare, or $1.50 per toll. The toll hike takes effect at the beginning of next year.
"Things have increased in cost and we have to pay for the services that we get," said Tollway Board Chair Paula Wolff. "Doesn't make it any easier to throw that money in the basket, or to add it to your transponder, but that's the reality of it."
In return for their extra quarters, proponents say commuters will see less congestion. The toll hike will pay for a 15 year capital program that includes a plan to widen a long stretch of I-90, from the Tri-State Tollway to Rockford; building a new interchange to connect the Tri-State and I-57; maintaining I-88 and I-355; and other road and bridge projects.
Backers of the plan have argued the toll hike was needed because the Illinois Tollway can't count on state and federal funding to help keep up the toll system. The proposal also enjoyed the support of Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and labor leaders, who say the capital plan will create thousands of much-needed construction jobs.
But critics have said the increase is too steep.
Board member Bill Morris, who voted against the measure, criticized the plan as "incomplete and flawed."
"If you're poor and don't have a credit card and can't afford I-PASS, I don't think we want to create an elite road system," Morris said.