Illiana's proposed tolls raise ire at Illinois meeting

2013-06-18T21:00:00Z 2013-07-15T12:15:06Z Illiana's proposed tolls raise ire at Illinois meetingGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent
June 18, 2013 9:00 pm  • 

PEOTONE | A specific route has not yet been chosen for the proposed Illiana Expressway, but the presumption it will be a toll road raised concern at a forum Tuesday in Peotone.

Nearly 200 people turned out for the meeting on the Illiana, which would connect Interstate 55 in Illinois to Interstate 65 in Indiana and travel through rural Will County, Ill., and Lake County, Ind.

“They sure are trying to push this at us, and all for a toll road,” said Don Hoffman, of Peotone. “It’s just not right.”

Several questions asked of state officials during the forum at Peotone High School related to the potential for tolls to access the road. Some questioned if the proposed tolls would negatively affect commercial traffic.

Steve Schilke, an Illinois Department of Transportation project manager, disputed the contention of some that tolls would cause truck drivers to deliberately avoid using the Illiana — even though improving commercial transportation is one of the reasons given for needing the Illiana.

He said truck drivers who avoid using the Chicago Skyway toll road do so to avoid Chicago traffic congestion, while there are significant signs of truck traffic on Interstate 294.

“It can cost $30 to get around the city on (I-294), yet the truck drivers use it,” Schilke said.

The Illiana Expressway would stretch from north of Lowell, Ind., to Wilmington, Ill., though an actual route will not be set until later this year.

Schilke said studies of the proposed Illiana show it would reduce traffic use of arterial roads in the area by 26 million miles annually, even if it becomes a toll road.

He also said it was not likely that the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, which oversees other Chicago-area toll roads, would have anything to do with an Illiana Toll Road. He said the proposed Illiana route is at least 12 miles from the nearest toll road overseen by the Illinois agency.

Whether the Illiana definitely becomes a toll road will be decided after Illinois and Indiana transportation officials meet next week in northwest suburban Rosemont with potential investors.

“We’ll be working very closely with them to see what ideas, what input they have as to whether this should become a toll road,” Schilke said.

That uncertainty was reflected in one question presented to state officials that some might consider to be the bottom line: What will the toll cost for this road?

“We don’t have a toll cost yet for this facility," Schilke said.

The construction process for the Illiana is scheduled to start in 2015 and take three years, officials said.

Tuesday's forum was sponsored by the state transportation agencies of Illinois and Indiana.

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