The prospect of Illinois' tollways becoming “freeways” has proven to be an agonizingly slow process that still has not come close to fruition.
According to Illinois Policy Institute (IPI), state lawmakers' promise of such a conversion dates all the way back to 1973. The reality is that toll fares have only continued to rise, with tolls almost doubling over the last decade to $1.50 and Illinois Tollway being afforded a $1.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2019.
“A look at the tollways' revenues during the past decade, adjusted for inflation, shows just how costly the now permanent agency has become for Illinois drivers,” IPI posted on its website. "Revenues collected from tolls and fines for missed tolls have gone up 90 percent in just 10 years.”
When the Illinois General Assembly created the Illinois State Toll Highway Commission almost seven decades ago, lawmakers in Springfield initially earmarked the revenue generated from the enactment for building interstate highways. As profits soared, the move to make the commission a permanent agency became a no-brainer for lawmakers, paving the way for the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority that still exists today.
But there has been little relief for Illinois motorists, who also saw the state’s gas tax double this summer as part of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s new spending plan. Back in 1999, then-Gov. George Ryan proposed ending the toll system, an idea that quickly faded and has not picked up much steam in the years since.