The Illinois Tollway should scale back its proposed 35-cent increase in tolls to a more modest 15-cent increase, tollway Director Bill Morris said today.
The tollway has a balanced budget and enough projected cash flow within its current rate structure to complete the tollway’s "prime mission," the maintenance of the existing 286-mile system, Morris said.
Increasing tolls only 15 cents would allow the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority to proceed with its priority project of rebuilding and widening the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90), Morris said in a detailed analysis of the tollway's proposed 15-year, $12 billion capital plan.
The 15-cent toll hike would also allow the tollway to begin the process of expanding the system to add possibly two new tollways, the Elgin-O'Hare West Bypass in DuPage County and extend Illinois Highway 53 north into Lake County, Morris said.
Morris' plan anticipates the board would review the capital plan and rates every three years to allow adjustments and make necessary toll increases to continue the program.
"There is no need for the proposed 87.5 percent toll increase at this time," Morris said. "The economic realities in the future and the diligence and good will of the tollway board at each of the decision points should dictate future toll increases."
The tollway begins a series of 14 public hearings on the capital plan on Thursday. The tollway board was expected to vote on the proposed toll increase at its Aug. 25 meeting.
"The board will be in a better position at each decision point to analyze toll revenue, local participation and the economy rather than adopting a large toll rate increase at one time," Morris said.
Morris balked at the proposed 35-cent increase when it was first proposed at the tollway's July 28 meeting, advocating a smaller amount, but he was rebuffed in his effort to scale it back at that time.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times