Both Sides Debate Hike on Tollways

Article excerpt

Byline: Robert McCoppin Daily Herald Staff Writer

Not only does Elmhurst resident Jim Campbell oppose an increase in tolls, but he questions why he has to pay tolls at all.

Drivers in the rest of the state, he points out, pay no tolls to drive interstates like I-55.

"Why should someone pay $300 or $400 a year to go to work when other people pay nothing?" he asked.

That was among many fundamental questions posed Wednesday night at a hearing in Glen Ellyn on whether tolls should be increased to 75 cents from the current standard 40 and 50 cents.

The hearing drew about 100 people and was among a dozen hearings held in the 12 counties the tollways serve. But some of those attending, like Campbell, wondered what difference it will make.

"Will we be listened to, or ignored, the same way that Gov. (George ) Ryan did with the O'Hare (expansion) hearings?" he asked.

"We are going to listen," said Tom Cuculich, executive director of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, who promised there will be another round of hearings.

But, he said, "the board really has no choice at this point."

Engineers have told the agency it will run out of money to make necessary repairs by the end of 2004.

The tollway board has proposed the increase, plus another increase, possibly to $1, in 2010, to raise $5.5 billion for reconstruction and widening of much of the system.

Other hearings in Algonquin and Grayslake were more colorful, perhaps, with protesters bringing in a small pig to protest what they considered tollway excess.

But the DuPage County hearing was marked by truckers and other drivers speaking out against proposed increases, engineers and others in favor of the increases, and heated exchanges against the increases by political candidates and groups opposed to tollway expansion. …