Illinois Betting On Tolls to Cover Highway Costs

The state of Illinois is actively pushing two highway projects that might fail to pencil-out for users and for state taxpayers.
February 15, 2014, 7am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Steven Vance examines the dubious financial outlook of two toll lane projects currently in the works in Illinois—the proposed Illiana Expressway and a 13-mile highway extension of IL-53.

For the former, the question is whether the tolls necessary to fund operations of the proposed route will be so exorbitant as to drive potential users onto other routes. “IDOT published an analysis this month that gauges how willing people are to pay certain tolls to drive on the 47-mile Illiana Tollway in rural Will County. The ‘toll sensitivity’ report shows tolls on the Illiana would be 23 cents per mile, almost four times the Illinois Tollway Authority average.”

If that cost proves too much, sending drivers to nearby I-80 as an alternative, it’s possible tolls won’t cover the cost of the expressway. “If Illiana users can’t cover the costs of construction debt and maintenance, all Illinois (and Indiana) taxpayers will be on the hook,” writes Vance.

Meanwhile, a 13-mile highway extension of IL-53 is facing a $2 billion shortfall. One of the ideas proposed solutions for covering the budget shortfall would require contributions from all taxpayers, not just those who own cars and drive: “Another idea the committee mentioned was to set up a Tax Increment Finance district that would send property tax revenue generated above current levels to paying down the tollway’s debt. These ideas would mean all of Lake County’s 700,000 residents end up paying for the road, not just the drivers, passengers, and freight haulers using the highway.”

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Published on Friday, February 14, 2014 in Chi.Streetsblog
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