Illinois Struggles With Toll Question
November 19, 1999
As Illinois toll authorities look for ways to accommodate Gov. George Ryan's request to get rid of toll booths, a new poll by the Chicago Tribune shows voters in the windy city like Ryan's proposal.
Two-thirds of suburban voters and 59% of Chicago residents are in favor of turning toll roads into freeways - not just because of the prospect of saving the money, but because waiting behind a sea of cars at the toll booths is a time-consuming pain in the neck. Voters in the southern part of the state, however, which has no toll roads, aren't in favor of the plan. Dropping tolls would mean additional income for road maintenance would have to come from somewhere else, such as higher taxes.
In September, Ryan called for the elimination of the 274-mile tollway system. Tollway Board Chairman Arthur Philip, on the other hand, had been trying to get support for an increase in toll charges.
Facing pressure from the governor's office, Philip has dropped his plans to raise tolls for all drivers. However, he suggests they still could go up for out-of-state drivers and trucks.
One problem with eliminating the toll system is that more drivers could start using the already-crowded tollways. According to the Tribune poll, almost four in 10 regular tollway users said they sometimes take alternate routes to avoid paying tolls. A similar number said they would use the tollways more often if they were free.