The Illinois Tollway board voted nearly unanimously Thursday to approve a nearly 88 percent toll hike intended to fund a $12 billion, 15-year road construction project that will improve and expand upon highways across the state.
The approved toll increase would mean I-Pass users will now pay nearly double their previous toll rate -- between 30 cents and $1.90, up from the previous range of 15 cents to $1 that most drivers currently pay, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Drivers who pay their tolls with cash will pay double the I-Pass rates.
The toll-funded capital plan, according to the agency, includes rebuilding the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) as "a 21st century, state-of-the-art corridor linking Rockford to O’Hare Airport" and a new interchange connecting I-294 to I-57, in addition to the much-publicized Elgin-O'Hare bypass. A number of other roads, bridges and maintenance facilities will also be repaired.
But not all board members were in favor of the hike, which was approved by a 7-to-1 vote. The lone board member who opposed the increase -- Bill Morris -- said the plan was "incomplete and flawed," according to WBEZ.
"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 added.
But those who supported the proposal point to the 120,000 jobs it is expected to create -- as well as the $21 billion in total economic growth anticipated. Further, for I-PASS holders in particular, the new increase marks the first toll hike they've seen since 1983.
Though Governor Pat Quinn denied earlier this month that he supported the tax hike, he did say that "there are higher costs to maintain our roads and tollways, and we have to deal with reality here."
According to ABC 7, Quinn urged for the toll hike increase, stating that "it is needed for economic growth and recovery." Previously in his political career, when he served as state treasurer, Quinn was a proponent of turning the tollways into freeways.
According to the board, over the course of 15 public hearings held in the state to gauge public opinion on the proposed toll increase, 81 percent of speakers favored the plan, while 88 percent of those who submitted written comments also voiced support, the Sun-Times noted.
The new toll rates are expected to go into effect January 1, 2012.
Photo by jetzenpolis via Flickr.