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Spiting your face

Monday, Aug 29, 2011

* A boycott would definitely be cutting off one’s nose to spite their face

Does a tollway hike in January mean thousands of I-PASS users flocking to alternate routes to avoid paying more at tolled ramps and plazas?

Illinois State Toll Highway Authority officials don’t think so.

But one I-PASS devotee who uses I-88 to get from Aurora to work in Naperville said “Diehl Road, here I come!” minutes after the tollway board of directors voted Thursday to increase rates to pay for a $12 billion roads program.

Another vowed to take Route 83 instead of I-355 on the daily commute between Lombard and Arlington Heights. It was a choice of spending 15 minutes more on the drive or paying roughly $300 more a year.

15 minutes extra commuting per day is 62.5 hours a year, with two weeks subtracted for a vacation. That unnamed person must not make much money if s/he can throw away that much time every year.

* Meanwhile, this number needs far more explanation

A $12 billion capital plan that would create thousands of jobs seems like a panacea for the metropolitan region’s woeful unemployment rate of 10.5 percent.

But predicting job creation numbers isn’t an exact science, experts say regarding the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority’s building program.

Tollway directors Thursday adopted a construction agenda for the next 15 years they say will create 120,000 permanent jobs and 13,000 temporary construction jobs.

Because

We’d point out that the big, $30 billion-ish statewide construction plan was estimated to create 40,000ish jobs. So would a $12 billion plan create three times as many?

Tribune

We’re concerned that the tollway has come to fancy itself an economic engine. Creating jobs ought to be a collateral benefit, not part of the mission statement. The system is supported by user fees — tolls — a concept we support. But we don’t think it’s fair to tap users to pay for projects that aren’t yet needed, all in the name of creating jobs. We’ll say it again: The Illinois Tollway is a highway system, not a jobs program.

* But not everybody is up in arms

[State Rep. Darlene Senger (R-Naperville)] addressed a question on the Illinois Tollway raising tolls by saying she was conflicted on the issue. She said she understood the reluctance to raise tolls, but understood the need for improving the state’s toll system, particularly for extending the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway and linking the state’s system with I-65 in Indiana.

“I kind of like the user fee, instead of taxing everybody,” she said.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

55 Comments
  1. - Horace - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 6:29 am:

    ==15 minutes extra commuting per day is 62.5 hours a year, with two weeks subtracted for a vacation. That unnamed person must not make much money if s/he can throw away that much time every year.==

    Yeah no doubt.

    Instead of protesting, people should drop down on their knees and thank god Illinois has some of the best roads in the world.

    $300 a year is absolutely dirt cheap to use the tollway system.


  2. - Skeeter - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 6:34 am:

    The boycott threat leads to another interesting point: In an area with a good system of public transport, people would be able to respond to a toll increase by switching to public transportation.

    In the Chicago area, however, despite billions spent, we have no effective public transportation getting from one suburb to another. We also have none that will effectively take people in the city to locations in the suburbs. If you live in the suburbs and work in the city, the RTA and CTA can get you there. If you live in Naperville and want to go to Arlington Heights, a car is your only option. If you live in the city and want to get to the suburbs, you can get as far as a train station and then you need to find some way to get you the rest of the way.

    For all that money spent, we really have not gotten what we need.


  3. - MC Gone - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 7:07 am:

    Maybe there’s a tremendous savings in not having to move the barriers and equipment that’s still there from the last great project. I hope none of the believers in IL having the best roads inadvertently wanders north to WI., especially in winter.


  4. - OneMan - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 7:07 am:

    Depending on where in Aurora to where in Naperville Diehl road makes sense. Since you end up hitting two toll booths in a relatively short distance (Eola to Naperville road) it’s quicker but it may not be worth it for the short trip.


  5. - Leroy - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 7:13 am:

    State Rep. Darlene Senger:

    Why does the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway need to be extended?

    Just a simple question.


  6. - Responsa - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 7:21 am:

    Boycotts are often viewed by outsiders as not “rational”, but they are sometimes all that people can think of to do to fight back when they feel the system is out of control and that no one is hearing them. People are frequently willing to endure considerable inconvenience during a boycott if there is group support and if the point they want to make is important enough to them. The Montgomery Bus boycott is a prime example. (No, an Illinois tollway boycott is NOT remotely the same thing, but few outsiders thought the Montgomery bus strike would bear fruit or that it made much sense when it started either.)


  7. - Allen Skillicorn - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 7:27 am:

    Raising the rates during a recession was mistake, but boycotts never work.


  8. - Allen Skillicorn - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 7:30 am:

    “$300 a year is absolutely dirt cheap to use the tollway system. ”

    Unfortunately, our motor fuel taxes already pay for the system. This double tax just subsidizes the downstate FREEways.


  9. - Six Degrees of Separation - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 8:01 am:

    If the boycott were truly effective, it would increase the travel time on those clogged side streets even more so that people would be commuting even longer. There is a monetary value to time, and most people are conscious of it when they see someone else speeding by them on another mode of transportation, be it a tollway driver or a Metra train rider.

    And Skeeter, for all its shortcomings, NE IL has the second-most developed public transit system in the US (trailing only NYC metro). Most cities would die for our extensive system. Suburb point-to-point will always be problematic. We could probably wring better performance out of our system by the universal fare card and some other improvements, but people want a 1-seat ride and the multiple transfers and wait times that are needed to implement suburban transit do not bode well for marked improvements there. Works much better in the city where the demand and density is there.


  10. - Six Degrees of Separation - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 8:04 am:

    Tolls are not a tax…I can choose to pay the toll or not. I can’t choose to pay federal income tax or not. I do question why tollway Oasis gasoline customers have to pay the state/federal motor fuel tax, but that’s about the only inequity I see.


  11. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 8:23 am:

    –In the Chicago area, however, despite billions spent, we have no effective public transportation getting from one suburb to another. We also have none that will effectively take people in the city to locations in the suburbs.–

    I disagree. I’ve been riding the CTA, Metra and Pace to get from Oak Park to a corporate campus in Deerfield. It’s been working out swell. The PACE shuttle bugs wait for the Metra train to arrive and takes hundreds down Lake Cook Road to their offices.

    It takes some time but it beats driving. Hats off to the RTA on this one.


  12. - CircularFiringSquad - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 8:23 am:

    Wouldn’t the boycott be great!
    All those cheap mopes would be off the road and the Tollway system which is pretty good already gets even better.
    Now if we could just mandate the users of East-West and Jane Adams wear sunglasses when the bright yellow dot is blinding you life would be good.
    Buy the way Mr/Mr Six Degrees no one mandates gas purchases on the oasis either. Plus unless you prefer gravel one needs some pavement to get to these sared shrines of motoring.


  13. - Louis G. Atsaves - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 8:34 am:

    I’ve been reading the reports posted on the Illinois Tollway website and I still can’t figure out where they get the 120,000 permanent jobs figure. I can understand 13,000 temporary construction jobs but 120,000 permanent jobs.

    When they rebuild Soldier Field they claimed thousands of permanent jobs would be created. Other massive public works projects in the recent past have made the same claims. The Dan Ryan Expressway rebuilding project also made numerous permanent job creation claims. Add McCormick Place to the mix and others and we really should have no unemployment whatsoever in this State if these “projected” job creation numbers are even remotely true.

    Has anyone ever followed up to see if all of the “job creation” through such public works programs are fact or fiction? Calling such estimates “tricky” may be a way out when projects fall short, but the unemployment rate in Illinois will plunge because they nearly doubled the tolls on the tollway?


  14. - MrJM - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:01 am:

    People should definitely boycott the tollways — and clear those roads for me!

    – MrJM


  15. - Leroy - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:06 am:

    “People should definitely boycott the tollways — and clear those roads for me!

    – MrJM ”

    Great, with less people using the toll roads, the tolls will go up even more for you, MrJM!


  16. - Shoot first, facts later - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:16 am:

    @dailyherald = “statewide” jobs plan is estimated to create approx 440,000 jobs - not 40,000. #PremiseFail


  17. - JBilla - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:20 am:

    $12 Billion to create 120,000 jobs is $100,000 per job. That sounds completely reasonable. $30 Billion to create 40,000 jobs is $750,000 per job, that sounds like a joke. I’m glad the recession is cutting down on administrative fees.


  18. - Cincinnatus - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:22 am:

    The jobs only seem permanent since the project takes so long to complete…


  19. - Six Degrees of Separation - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:32 am:

    Great, with less people using the toll roads, the tolls will go up even more for you, MrJM!

    He can probably afford the Lexus Lanes.

    Personally, I think there are lots of people who would be willing to pay $10 one-way if they could drive on the Ike, Stevenson or Kennedy at 60 mph in rush hour. Personally, I am willing to pay Metra $5 to avoid either of ‘em at rush hour.


  20. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:36 am:

    I have no problem with the increase, even as someone who commutes on three different tollways each way daily. I think the fee is worth the speed and convenience.

    That said, I am skeptical about the real need for some of the extension plans– the O’Hare one is a political boondoggle, and the 57 connector just seems excessive. Generating new funding for long-term repair and maintenance is a smart move. Doing it for short-term “job growth” as code for construction contractor gimmies is a very, very bad move.


  21. - Been There - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:39 am:

    ===“I kind of like the user fee, instead of taxing everybody,” she said.===
    It will cost me around $250 a year more in tolls but I can live with that. But I do have a problem claiming this is actually a user fee. I am not sure how often I will use any of the new roads that are going to be built. A true user fee would just plan to use the tolls collected in the future from the actual users. But it is not a huge hit to my bottom line so not that big of a deal.


  22. - wishbone - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:53 am:

    The simple fact is there will be NO net job creation. The increased tolls will shift spending from one area to another and that is all. Only deficit spending can increase employment in the near term (econ 101). If we could increase jobs by raising taxes or tolls it would be easy to reach full employment. It ain’t. The issue, therefore, is not job creation but whether an investment of this magnitude in new and “improved” highways makes sense in an era when carbon emissions threaten our children’s planet. It doesn’t.


  23. - Six Degrees of Separation - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 10:08 am:

    The issue, therefore, is not job creation but whether an investment of this magnitude in new and “improved” highways makes sense in an era when carbon emissions threaten our children’s planet. It doesn’t.

    Tollways don’t cause much in the way of carbon emissions in comparison to the vehicles that use them today. Highways were built during the Roman Empire and are mentioned in the U.S. Constitution over 200 years ago, when “road apples” were a major form of carbon emission. I would suspect we will be using highways long after oil is no longer a major source of vehicle propulsion, and I also suspect more of them will be financed by “user fees” in one form or another rather than fuel taxes.


  24. - reformer - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 10:11 am:

    The tollway job estimate reminds me of Mayor Daley who, when he announced O’Hare expansion, predicted it would create 195,000 new jobs. The FAA subsequently estimated that expansion would create 50,000 new jobs, 40,000 of which would’ve been created anyway.

    Rep. Senger certainly was no profile in courage in protecting her constituents from a huge toll hike.


  25. - reformer - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 10:15 am:

    One of the worst features of the plan is converting a freeway into a tollway. The Elgin-O’Hare expressway is the last freeway built in the northwest burbs. It’s already paid for, but suburbanites are going to have to pay a second time via tolls. And they may never live long enough to see the western access to O’Hare completed.


  26. - chi - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 10:16 am:

    Wishbone- There will be net job creation. Whether the government is spending by borrowing (because it is running a deficit) or by simply charging the consumer more and then buying goods with the increased revenue (as here), the government is still increasing demand, which is what most economists say our economy needs in order to create jobs (Keynes 101).


  27. - chi - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 10:19 am:

    “The Elgin-O’Hare expressway is the last freeway built in the northwest burbs. It’s already paid for”

    A road is never ‘paid for’ unless it has a dedicated trust fund earning enough interest to provide for all future maintenance and upkeep.


  28. - Cincinnatus - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 10:22 am:

    chi,

    But if you are removing private capital, you lose that capital in the private economy, with the added benefit of taking 20% off the top for bureaucracy. Now add the 15%-20% project cost increases owing to “fair wage” provisions and you inefficiencies that remove capital from investment. The very best Keynes 101 gives you is a temporary increase, with little long-term creation of wealth.


  29. - George - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 10:23 am:

    This seems to be another attempt to lower the unemployment rate thereby improving the furthering of Dem’s chances in 2012.Has anyone looked at the Authority”s spending practices? Just tour their executive offices. The very best of everything,purchased with no tax funds,just toll money—with no real oversight,since the Director is tied to the guv and the stooges on the board are also of the guv’s choosing. This has been going on for a long time.If Republicans were in power they’d do the same thing.Illinois politics at it’s worst.We appear to be able to turn any well intended project,no matter how temporary it’s planned,and turn it into a cash and power cow for the ruling Party.


  30. - jeff - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 10:29 am:

    If the commuter is already paying $300 a year avoiding the increase saves the increase and $300 a year. Somebody making $40-50k should consider it.


  31. - Skeeter - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 10:31 am:

    On a somewhat related note, where is the Illinois Tea Party on this? They should be cheering the tax increase as an assault on socialism. Why should people pay for roads they do not use? That’s socialism! Time to make the freeloaders pay.
    At least that would seem to be the Tea Party line on this.


  32. - CircularFiringSquad - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 10:41 am:

    Ms/Mr Reformer
    Actually the LAST tollway will be the north end of Rte 53 to(hopefully) somewhere near the WI border. Just as soon as someone figures how to plow through the idyllic fields of Long Grove.
    Hopefully sooner rather than later.
    Hey Capt Fax it looks like you have goodly number of tollway users here today.
    Good for u. It will help with the demographics


  33. - chi - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 10:50 am:

    Cincinnatus-

    At this point the disagreement is very similar to the argument over whether we should cut taxes on the rich (they’re job creators!) or to increase those taxes, because the rich have not and will not use the extra money in their pockets to hire people.

    The difference here is that tollway users run the income gamut. But the logic is the same. The savings rate right now is higher than usual (as in any recession/bad economic situation) because people are scared to spend money. This toll increase forces people to spend money, money which goes directly towards hiring people to build and maintain roads.

    And paying the prevailing wage to workers is good for the economy- both in evening the playing field for contractors and for putting a fair wage in the pocket of consumers, who then will go out and spend some of the money, make their mortgage payment with some of it, paying someone what ther are worth, etc.

    And yes, the increase will have a bigger direct temporary effect on construction jobs than a permanent effect. The permanent effects come from the product- a better, safer, infrastructure system that will increase the profits of businesses (which will then lead to more construction jobs in the long run). A temporary benefit is exactly what is called for when the economy is in the tank.


  34. - Tim - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 10:53 am:

    I would really like for someone to explain job creation numbers for me. Are these new jobs or continuation of existing jobs? If you want to use construction to create jobs you do it with vertical construction on road construction.


  35. - Bill White - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 11:01 am:

    Does anyone know how the IL tollways compare with toll roads elsewhere? $ per mile for example?


  36. - Six Degrees of Separation - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 11:02 am:

    On a somewhat related note, where is the Illinois Tea Party on this?

    As an apolitical observer, I could see this going either way. Good, because it is a user fee, not a tax, and represents choice in the marketplace. Bad, because it represents an expansion of government (regardless of method of finance) and as a “silent tax” on the goods and services providers who will pass on their costs to both users and non-users of the tollway.

    Maybe it will merit a “Splunge” (for you Monty Python fans out there.


  37. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 11:05 am:

    –I hope none of the believers in IL having the best roads inadvertently wanders north to WI., especially in winter.–

    Since the Cheeseheads don’t salt the interstates, you see a lot of drivers wandering off the road in Wisconsin winters.


  38. - Skeeter - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 11:16 am:

    “This seems to be another attempt to lower the unemployment rate thereby improving the furthering of Dem’s chances in 2012″

    Yeah, it is all part of a complex and devious plot that including killing Bin Laden, forcing Quaddafi out, and providing health care insurance to all Americans. These politicians will do ANYTHING to get elected.


  39. - chi - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 11:20 am:

    Haha, trying to lower the unemployment rate is “Illinois politics at its worst”!


  40. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 11:52 am:

    Hey, Skeeter– take a look at Rich’s article “the War at Home” just beneath this one, and ask yourself whether your ‘debating skill’ is helping. :/


  41. - Skeeter - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 11:56 am:

    “Hey, Skeeter– take a look at Rich’s article “the War at Home” just beneath this one, and ask yourself whether your ‘debating skill’ is helping. :/”

    I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Details please.


  42. - Loop Lady - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 12:18 pm:

    What needs to happen is both Tollway improvements and concurrent additional of public transit options…if you live in Schaumburg and work in the Loop, your options other than driving in are limited, will take forever, and involve more than one seat…
    Believe it or not, regional planning entities, muni governments, and State agencies are talking to one another about the options to improve public and highway transit…I know, I’m involved…if you’re not part of the solution, well, you know…


  43. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 12:43 pm:

    If these roads aren’t “paying for themselves” and are such money sinks, why not just rip them up and be done with it?


  44. - Louis G. Atsaves - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 12:56 pm:

    === If these roads aren’t “paying for themselves” and are such money sinks, why not just rip them up and be done with it? ===

    The traffic jams on the tollway system is nothing compared to Kennedy, Dan Ryan, Eisenhower, Stevenson expressways. It is actually a relief to reach the tollway after sitting in commuter traffic on an “expressway.”

    Last big toll increase on trucks brought down a ton of trucks on IL41 on the North Shore in Lake County. The State countered with signs telling them to stay in the right lane (try making a turn onto a business driveway with a truck right behind you) and not to use their air brakes. They dominate IL41 traffic after 6:30 p.m. on weekdays.

    How much additional traffic will fall on IL41 when autos seeking to escape these huge increases cross-over onto an already crowded State route?


  45. - Six Degrees of Separation - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 12:57 pm:

    Anon 12:43: The tollway comes closest to “paying for itself” out of all the transportation agencies, even though some stretches of their system are cross-subsidized by higher traveled sections. I doubt if our economy would prosper if we started ripping out everything that didn’t require some type of fee or subsidy, like the CTA, Metra, local streets and the like. Much of our transportation investment has returned money to the economy in spades. I agree we should continue to make wise investments where the overall public value will be enhanced.


  46. - Six Degrees of Separation - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 12:59 pm:

    Replace “didn’t require” w/ “required”


  47. - sal-says - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 1:53 pm:

    “15 minutes extra commuting per day is 62.5 hours a year, with two weeks subtracted for a vacation. That unnamed person must not make much money if s/he can throw away that much time every year.”

    Maybe they can’t afford to “throw away that much..” money every year. And, maybe they aren’t getting an 87% increase in their pay.

    Just sayin’.


  48. - Responsa - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 2:20 pm:

    ==This toll increase forces people to spend money==

    The word “forces” which you apparently see as a great thing is indeed the inherent problem here. Especially when many of those being “forced” are commuters still lucky enough to have a job but are already near the end of their economic rope –or are small businesses struggling mightily to survive and to keep their existing service and delivery employees on the payroll and on the road.

    When I see the cavalier way “only” $300 or $600 is sniffed at by some commenters here it shows there is a level of disconnect and detachment from what so many of our fellow citizens are currently facing in their family’s finances. A lot of people who drive a long way on the tollway system and currently pay many tolls every round trip do so because the only job they can get is miles away from where they live. Not everybody lives in Hinsdale and is loaded and is not paying their fair share and drives an Audi.


  49. - yinn - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 2:34 pm:

    Chi & Cinncinatus: Mr. Keynes says, “In the long run, we are all dead.”


  50. - chi - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 3:24 pm:

    Re: use of the word “forces”.

    Unfortunately I am no Frank Luntz. Technically, drivers aren’t ‘forced’ to pay the toll because they can choose other streets.

    But as citizens we often do not want to do what is best for ourselves and our state. Who ‘wants’ to pay a higher income tax? This is why we elect representatives who (hopefully) make the tough decisions and force us to do what we should.

    Re: the cavalier way people are talking about hundreds of dollars of increases per driver. I agree, I’m suprised. Blog readers here must have a high median wage. But the benefits outweigh the sting it will put on people’s wallets.


  51. - reformer - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 3:44 pm:

    CHI
    Freeways were built using gas tax revenues and are maintained the same way. I don’t see any downstate freeways being converted into tollways.

    Suburbanites pay lots of gas taxes while sitting in congestion, and those taxes fund downstate freeways. Suburban motorists also get to pay tolls, which downstaters avoid unless they come north of I-80.


  52. - chi - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 4:00 pm:

    reformer-

    I don’t understand what point you’re making.


  53. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 7:59 pm:

    The price of tolls have not been increased in almost 30 years. Timing is very very bad. And I agree with Commission Bill Morris a more modest increase would be much better from a public relations stand point. Raise it from 40 cents to 60 cents to 75 cents in 5 year span and yelling will subside.


  54. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 9:18 pm:

    –Freeways were built using gas tax revenues and are maintained the same way. I don’t see any downstate freeways being converted into tollways.–

    Give me a break. I-57 between Kankakee and Marion was built and paid for by the gas taxes of users? How about the interstates out in the Plains, Rockies and the Southwest? Not a chance that they were built or are maintained by the gas taxes of users. They were built and are maintained by the taxes of nasty metro citizens in the East and Midwest.

    One of the more disturbing aspects of these very anxious and selfish times is the lack of a sense of community among many.


  55. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 29, 11 @ 11:57 pm:

    ===Especially when many of those being “forced” are commuters still lucky enough to have a job but are already near the end of their economic rope….===

    Wow. Even in the 10th? Who would have thought?


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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