CHICAGO
01/11/2012 11:44 am ET

Illinois Tollway Traffic Drops Following Massive Toll Hike (VIDEO)

Some Illinois drivers who previously relied on the state's tollway for their daily commutes and other travels now appear to be turning to alternate routes.

The Illinois Toll Highway Authority reports that passenger car toll transactions have dropped off by 4.5 percent since Jan. 1, when a nearly 90 percent toll hike went into effect -- the agency's first rate hike since 1983.

According to Fox Chicago, that drop-off is still less than the 6 percent drop that the authority was anticipating.

Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur told the Chicago Tribune that although she understood that many drivers would initially seek out alternate routes to avoid paying the stiffer tolls, she anticipated many of them will return to the tollway before long.

"We understand that no one wants to pay more in commuting costs, especially during these challenging economic times," Lafleur told the Tribune. "And we also understand that, faced with higher costs, our customers will intuitively experiment with new travel routes."

The hike, approved in September, means I-Pass users now pay double their previous toll rate -- between 30 cents and $1.90, up from the previous range of 15 cents to $1. Drivers paying their tolls with cash pay double the I-Pass rates.

And while the number of toll transactions is down for the agency so far this year, their revenue is up -- by 45.7 percent so far in 2012, the Daily Herald reports. Administrators predict the hike will generate about $288.6 million in additional revenue in 2012, which they say is needed for a $12 billion, 15-year construction program that includes plans to widen and resurface several roads, as well as building a new interchange between Interstates 294 and 57.

A lawsuit filed by the anti-tax group Taxpayers United of America aimed at blocking the toll hike was dismissed by a Cook County circuit judge last month.

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