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Illinois Tollway expects traffic to increase despite impending fee hike

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*(Please see correction below)

The Illinois Tollway says traffic has increased on state tollways this year.

The agency collected four percent more in the first six months of 2011 compared to last year, despite the announcement of an 88 percent increase in fees last month. Starting at the beginning of next year, I-Pass rates will be raised from 40 cents to 75 cents, while drivers who use cash will pay $1.50. Executive Director Kristi Lafleur says she doesn’t expect traffic to change much at the onset of the rate hikes, and that traffic will start to increase by 2013.

“We’re going to continue over the next months to make sure our customers are educated and know what’s happening,” said Lafleur, who spoke at the City Club on Thursday. “We know that these improvements are necessary and will deliver some improvements that will get people where they’re going faster, and ultimately that’s why people use the tollway.”

Lafleur says the revenue from the toll hike will help fund a $12 billion construction plan to build and repair state highways and bridges. Included in the plan are an Elgin-O’Hare expressway and the widening of the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) between Rockford and O’Hare.

Correction:

(A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Exeutive Director Kristi Lafleur doesn’t expect a decrease in traffic at the onset of the rate hikes. A spokesperson for the Illinois Tollway says the agency has factored in a 2.6 percent decrease in traffic in the short term after the toll hike. The tollway says it expects traffic to eventually increase by 40 percent by the project’s propsed end date in 2026 in part due to increased capacity.)

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