Tollway Can't Fund Proposed Roadwork, Group Says Opponents of Extensions Say Tolls Would Have to Double or Triple

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Tollway officials would have to double or triple tolls to pay for the reconstruction and expansion they propose, an analysis by a watchdog group concluded Monday.

That analysis is based on the tollway system's own cost estimates.

In a report issued last month, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority projected it would need $6.3 billion for a needed reconstruction of the system.

Most of the tollway's roads are more than 40 years old, at the end of their useful life, and need to be torn up and rebuilt, tollway officials have said.

To raise that much money by getting a loan and paying it off over 25 years, drivers would have to pay twice as much, the Environmental Law & Policy Center calculated.

To further expand toll roads by extending Route 53 through Lake County, extending the North-South Tollway through Will County, and constructing a bypass around O'Hare International Airport, as has been proposed, the tollway would need $4 billion more.

That would require a tripling of the tolls, to about $1.25, over 25 years, the center projected.

The center, which opposes the tollway extensions, concluded the projections show the tollway cannot afford to expand.

"It raises serious questions about their financial management," center attorney Ann Spillane said. …