Illinois Tollway: Fewer trucks, but more money since toll hike

| 2/10/2005

The Illinois Tollway system has seen an 8 percent decline in the number of trucks using the system since it implemented a huge increase in tolls, Chicago area media outlets reported Feb. 10.

However, because the toll increase was so large, the system actually brought in more money – a lot more money.

Altogether, the system saw a 7.7 percent drop in truck traffic. The Sun-Times reported that on two of the tollway’s roads, that drop exceeded 10 percent. The Northwest Tollway saw a 10.5 percent drop, while truck traffic on the Reagan Tollway was 12.5 percent less than the same period last year.

However, because of the size of the toll increase, the system produced nearly 62 percent more income, from roughly $24 million last year to $39.3 million during the same period this year.

Illinois Tollway officials approved the new, higher rates Sept. 30. Joelle McGinnis, press secretary for Illinois Tollway, said the plan was designed to increase the number of hours truckers can receive the off-peak rate as compared with earlier proposals.

However, rates for truckers have still more than doubled.

From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., all truckers – paying with cash or I-Pass – pay the off-peak $3 rate. Additional off-peak hours for truckers using I-Pass are from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays, from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, and all weekend long. During those additional hours, truckers with cash pay the $4 rate.

All truckers using the toll roads pay the full $4 from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays – when the Tollway’s routes are clogged with commuters in the Chicago area.

The toll is charged at each toll plaza a truck passes through. On the Tri-State Tollway, truckers must pass through five.

Media outlets reported that many truckers were using local, alternative routes to avoid the tolls. That possibility was a concern before the rate increases took effect. The off-peak discounts were negotiated in part by state Sen. Susan Garrett, D-Highwood, who in the past had expressed concerns that increased tolls would lead to heavier use of U.S. 41 by trucks. The highway runs through the heart of her district, which sits north of Chicago.