Electronic toll plazas almost complete in Illinois

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As part of the Illinois Tollway’s $5.3 billion Congestion Relief Program, 17 mainline toll plazas have been converted to Open Road Tolling, with reconstruction of the remaining three plazas expected to be completed this fall.

As of August, 1.4 million vehicles per day were traveling on the Illinois Tollway, and 77 percent of those drivers were using I-PASS, an electronic transponder that allows for nonstop travel, says tollway spokeswoman Jan Kemp. “I believe that’s the highest rate in the nation,” Kemp says. “Of course, the more people that are using I-PASS, the less congestion there will be on the road.”

According to the tollway, the use of I-PASS among truckers increased by more than 20 percent, to 7.5 million trips, in the first six months of 2006. Truckers that switch to I-PASS reduce their travel time by up to 20 minutes for a round trip, Kemp says. “If they can save time, they are saving money.”

Plazas that offer Open Road Tolling still have traditional plazas located to the right of the road for truckers who want to pay with cash, but they’ll pay more than they would using I-PASS. For example, a weekend daytime rate for large trucks at the Dixon Toll Plaza on Interstate 88 is $7.15 using I-PASS but $9.50 when paying cash.

Truckers paying cash without any time-of-day discounts have seen an increase of about triple the old toll rates, Kemp says, whereas cash-only four-wheelers are paying double. The Illinois Tollway had not raised tolls in more than 20 years, and the increase in rates was needed to pay for the Congestion Relief Program, she says.

The Illinois Tollway is a state agency run by a board of directors appointed by the governor. It is supported strictly by tolls and not financed by any state or federal taxes, although bonds are sold to finance the construction of roads.