Tolls to “never” go away on Illinois tollways

The acting secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation recently discussed the ongoing presence of tolls on Illinois highways:

Acting Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn Friday answered the question that’s been on commuters’ minds since the state’s first three tollways opened in 1958: When will the tolls go away, as promised.

“Never,” Blankenhorn told a gathering of Kane County leaders. “The existing tolls are going to be on the tollway. That’s the way it’s going to be. The truth is unless we are willing to put significantly more state and federal money into the system, tolls are going to be the way we fund the system. It’s not going to be the only way, but it’s going to be part of the package.”…

Blankenhorn, calling himself “a user fee kind of guy” stuck to his support for existing and new tolls throughout his answers. The history of borrowing money to fund all segments of transportation, including ongoing maintenance, must end, he said.

“We’ve got to be able to pay for maintenance as we go,” Blankenhorn said. “We need a stable funding source that grows. User fees, I think, have to be part of this solution. If we don’t do something soon, we will have 5,000 miles of roadway in Illinois that will be in need of immediate repair. How long do we want to fund infrastructure on cigarette taxes and gambling?”

Given that the federal government nor states seem particularly interested in big infrastructure/highway funding (and even if they wanted to, money isn’t exactly flowing these days), I would guess that tolls will continue to grow. You the driver want a road, particularly a new one that cuts through already-developed areas? Be prepared to pay tolls.

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