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Illinois: Toll Road Consultant Says Toll Roads Needed in Chicago
Reviving Blagojevich tolling plan would generate $76,891,000 in annual revenue for Chicago, Illinois toll authority.

WSA report cover
A study by a major toll road consulting firm released last week concluded that higher tolls are needed in Chicago, Illinois. Wilbur Smith Associates stated that "congestion charging" was the solution to the Windy City's traffic problems in a report funded by the Illinois Tollway using $937,500 in federal gas tax dollars. Congestion charging is a means of increasing rates when traffic is at its peak to maximize revenue. The document, entitled "The Road Less Traveled," insisted that these boosted fees were essential to the city's future.

"The Chicago region cannot afford to ignore its congestion problem," the report stated. "Today's morning rush hour traffic is expected to increase by more than twelve percent in the next twenty years. Afternoon traffic is going to be almost twice as bad by 2030. The region must continue to experiment with new solutions, or risk its economic competitiveness, health, and quality of life."

Adding congestion pricing tolls to the Stevenson Tollway would generate $24,495,000 in annual revenue by 2020, according to the study's estimates. Adding a toll lane within the existing toll lanes of the Jane Addams Tollway would generate $29,256,000. Tolling the Kennedy Expressway would generate $23,140,000. Taken together, the proposal represents $76,891,000 in additional revenue.

As part of the study, outreach presentations held across the state extolled the benefits of congestion pricing to an audience of 350 local officials. The decision makers were given "congestion pricing strategies" and asked to comment on various ways to promote the program. The firm also conducted a survey of existing I-PASS toll customers ask whether they would be willing to pay an additional toll if it ensured speedier travel times. According to the report, 85 percent agreed.

This describes the "Green Lanes" toll road proposal created by former Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich (D) who is currently on trial for a corruption scheme involving, among other things, the creation of the Green Lanes. According to the indictment, a firm connected to the tolling industry was told to funnel campaign donations to Blagojevich in return for the governor's approval of the congestion pricing plan for the Illinois Tollway.

Between 2002 and 2005, the Illinois Tollway had paid $8,615,065 to Wilbur Smith Associates for studies and consulting services. A copy of the draft report is available in an 800k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File The Road Less Traveled (draft) (Wilbur Smith Associates, 7/8/2010)

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