17.6.07

THERE'S THIS CONCEPT CALLED "BYPASS." The Illinois Tollway Authority is considering time-of-day pricing for automobiles.

The tollway's expansion of the I-PASS system has put it in a position to look at floating toll rates and also makes it logistically likelier it could extend tolls to all or part of Chicago's expressways, [Peter] Skosey of the Metropolitan Planning Council said.

In the end, the most politically and logistically realistic result of the study could be higher toll rates during rush hours at certain tollway choke points, like the River Road Toll Plaza on the Northwest Tollway. The practice already is in effect for trucks throughout the system.

Adding tolls to lanes on Chicago's expressways clearly would be met with more opposition from drivers and politicians. It also would require a significant infrastructure investment and likely a change in state law.

But without that legislation, and possibly some toll stations on arterial roads, the time-sensitive tolls will not generate the revenue the tollway authority expects. People can easily avoid the tolls by using the arterial streets, which aren't that much slower than the tollways. The truckers have already figured that dodge out.
Now a truck traveling at rush hour on the tollway can expect to pay anywhere from 28 percent to 50 percent more than the regular toll rate. Rush hours are between 6 and 9 a.m. and 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on weekdays. Tollway officials could not provide information yet on how the higher toll rates have affected congestion.
A few casual observations. First, the higher rates still don't compensate for the additional wear the trucks place on the toll roads. Those lanes that are not being renewed are already clapped out, particularly on the Tri-State north of Tuohy Avenue and on the Reagan. Second, the truckers have all the non-toll U.S. highways to use instead, and they're wrecking U.S. 20, U.S. 30, and U.S. 34 as well as Illinois 31, 38, 47, and 59. (And don't get me started on the effect those elephant herds are having on mobility. A stampede of actual elephants stampede gets moving faster after a traffic light changes than a lineup of semis does. That only accentuates the absence of synchronized signals.) How much longer must this corporate welfare continue?

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