Local residents worried about Illinois toll road increases

2011-08-25T18:15:00Z 2011-08-26T23:30:42Z Local residents worried about Illinois toll road increasesBy Chas Reilly chas.reilly@nwi.com, (219) 662-5324 nwitimes.com

When new Illinois toll rates kick in next year, Hammond resident Anne Klupshas expects to spend an additional $364 a year just to travel to work in Westchester, Ill.

"It's very scary," Klupshas said of the increase.

The Illinois Tollway board voted 7-1 Thursday in favor of nearly doubling tolls to pay for a more than $12 billion highway construction plan.

Klupshas said changing the route she drives to work to avoid tolls isn't doable because it would increase her commute time. She said she would have to leave her home about 4:30 a.m. to ensure she could arrive at work by 7:30 a.m. if she took a different route.

Klupshas thinks the toll increase, which takes effect Jan. 1, could make it too expensive for some Northwest Indiana residents to drive to work in Illinois.

Under the plan, basic I-Pass toll rates would increase from 40 cents to 75 cents. Drivers who pay cash will continue to pay twice what I-Pass users pay.

Hebron resident Jack Rees said he uses various toll roads about four times each week, either to go to Orland Park for trips to a pain clinic, or to visit his daughter in Plainfield. He said the toll increases won't decrease the amount of trips he makes.

"But it doesn't make me happy," Rees said. "I know it's going to put a bite on a lot of people."

The extra money will be used to fund a 15-year capital project that includes plans to widen and rebuild the Jane Addams Tollway between Rosemont and Rockford. The project also includes a new interchange to connect Interstate 294 and Interstate 57 and other improvements.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said Thursday that the state needs a strong transportation system to have a strong economy. He said improving the tollway system to reduce congestion will save drivers time on the road.

Gary resident Glenn Johnson, who uses Illinois toll roads to travel to his job in Chicago, said he has started to contemplate asking if he could work from home some days because gas prices and the toll increases "are making it unaffordable to drive."

"Everyone keeps saying 'no new taxes,' but they find a different way to tax us," Johnson said.

Highland resident Sheena Battles travels on Illinois toll roads "pretty much daily" to visit family and for business, she said.

Battles said she isn't pleased with the condition of some roads she uses.

"The toll road is not even worth what they're asking us to pay," Battles said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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