Truckers north of Chicago have become targets as Illinois
officials take actions intended to cut big rig traffic on U.S. 41.
number of truckers have diverted onto U.S. 41 after Illinois more than doubled
tolls on the nearby Tri-State Tollway, which carries Interstate 94 to the
Wisconsin border. U.S. 41 parallels the interstate through suburban Lake
County. The increased truck traffic, according to state Sen. Susan Garrett,
D-Lake Forest, has raised the ire of many local residents.
response, the Illinois State Police have increased their patrols along U.S. 41.
More weigh stations were added in January, and truckers have reported increased
In addition, State Police officers assigned to commercial
enforcement said on Feb. 24 that they will conduct “special inspection details” and use portable scales on the road. The officials did not specify when the
efforts would begin, but truckers say the stepped up enforcement has already
“We’re increasing patrols on local roads to make sure trucks are
respecting state and local traffic laws,” Illinois State Police Director Larry
Trent said in a written statement.
State Police officials said in the same written statement that they were acting
under the direction of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The governor released a
statement saying there have been complaints from residents about commercial
“As major changes to the Tollway
get under way, we’ve heard from local residents who are concerned about the
short-term impact on local traffic flow – especially from commercial trucks,” Blagojevich said in a news release.
OOIDA member Brian Calhoun, Grayslake, IL, said he had seen
the increased enforcement on U.S. 41 firsthand.
“I have seen it big time,” he said. As he and his wife were
traveling the highway in their car on a recent Saturday night, he saw two
trucks at a weigh station undergoing full inspections.
“Two state troopers, they had two trucks pulled into the
scale, and they had the doors open, going through the truck and everything,” he
said. “It had to have been like 6:30 at night … and the scales are never open
on 41 on weekends.”
has also recently seen scales open at odd hours like 4:30 a.m. doing full DOT
never done that before,” Calhoun said.
the increase enforcement activity is only part of the picture. As the state
senator who represents the area, Sen. Garrett says she plans to take action at
the state capital that would affect all trucks traveling the road.
Legislation in the works
Garrett, who represents part of the area north of Chicago where U.S. 41 passes,
has long been concerned
about truck traffic on the road. She recently formed a Transportation Task
Force to collect data regarding truck traffic along U.S. 41 in the wake of the
toll increases, the State Police said.
the senator says she will take further steps. She plans to introduce a bill that
would restrict trucks to the right lane on any four-lane or larger state
highway in Illinois that has residential intersections and cross streets.
bill is being spurred in part by the situation on U.S. 41. But Garrett, who
recently conducted a series of town hall meetings in her district, said that
the issue was around long before the recent situation.
trucks to the right lane is “the most common request I get regarding truck
issues,” she said. “I’m hearing it more now because of Route 41.”
said that until recent times, trucks in the state were restricted to the far
right lane. Her constituents “feel by and large that it makes the roads much
safer,” and would like to see a return of that restriction.
41 is a federal highway, and Garrett’s proposal would place the right-lane
restriction on “state highways.” But the senator said that it was her
understanding that Illinois had jurisdiction over parts of U.S. 41, giving the
state the ability to enact the restriction. She hopes to start work on a bill
in the next couple of months, but first “we need to get the exact language.”
senator said she knew the proposal would not stop the increase in truck traffic
through her district.
understand that there will most likely be more truck traffic coming through our
communities; they know that that’s going to be reality,” she said.
Tolls drive trucks to 41
Trucker started to change their routes to
U.S. 41 after a new set of higher toll rates officially went into effect Jan. 1
along all the roads in the Illinois Tollway system.
Tollway officials approved the plan Sept.
30, said Joelle McGinnis, press secretary for the Illinois Tollway.
However, rates for truckers still more
During late night hours, truckers pay $3
at each gate. During most daytime hours, truckers using I-Pass pay $3, while
cash-carrying truckers pay $4.
All truckers pay $4 during morning and
evening rush hours, when the Tollway’s routes are clogged with commuters in the
The toll is charged at each toll plaza a
truck passes through. On the Tri-State Tollway, truckers must pass through
The increase originally was going to be
higher. In August, Gov. Blagojevich proposed nearly quadrupling the tolls
truckers pay. However, that plan was scaled back to the current increase, in
part due to efforts by Garrett after she expressed concern about increased
traffic that could divert onto U.S. 41.
Garrett’s concerns were born out
in February after Chicago-area media outlets reported that the Tollway system had seen an 8 percent decline
in the number of trucks since it implemented the toll hike.
system saw a 7.7 percent drop in truck traffic. But The Chicago Sun-Times reported
that on two of the tollway’s roads, that drop exceeded 10 percent. One of those
was the Northwest Tollway.
– By Mark H. Reddig, associate editor