Amidst the many signs that a proposed rate hike on the Illinois tollway system faces mounting opposition, perhaps none are more dramatic than the sign a public-interest group mounted Monday at the crossroads of Interstates 90 and 294.
The Environmental Law & Policy Center unveiled a 14-foot by 48-foot billboard condemning the idea of raising tolls systemwide to fund the controversial Route 53 and Interstate 355 extensions, through Lake and Will County, respectively. The billboard is stationed at one of the busiest intersections on the 274-mile tollway system and perches over the traffic-clogged approach to the Rosemont Toll Plaza.
The billboard features the message "They're Still Wasting Our Time and Money," superimposed over a collage of newspaper clips announcing the toll hike. It urges people to call toll-free at 1-888-NO-TOLLS to obtain more information on how to block a toll hike.
ELPC hopes the billboard will reinforce popular resistance to the toll hike proposal championed by Illinois State Toll Highway Authority chairman Arthur Philip.
"This ad expresses the frustration of a generation of motorists who have been paying to expand the Toll Authority's empire," said Mike Truppa, spokesman for ELPC. "We already knew that the Route 53 and I-355 extensions are too unpopular to build. Now we know that they're too expensive to build without soaking drivers on the existing tollway system. Hopefully this ad will help cement opposition to such a misconceived idea."
Philip, the brother of Senate President James "Pate" Philip, came under heavy criticism late last summer for barnstorming in favor of the toll increase. The idea prompted a rebuke from Governor George Ryan, who declared his unequivocal opposition to the toll hike. While Philip has since acknowledged that a toll hike faces formidable political odds, he continues to support the idea, according to ELPC.
The law currently affords the Toll Authority exclusive control over toll rates, a license that many critics have likened to a blank check.