Two things are on everyone's mind these days: What would a toll increase mean to me, and when does voting start for In Transit's Best Road Trip Song contest?
You're in luck, as both questions will be answered today. Finalists and voting details on the contest follow below.
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As for the toll hike, the answer varies greatly depending on what route you drive.
To recap, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority is considering raising rates to support a $12 billion, 15-year capital plan. About $8 billion would go toward maintaining and repairing existing roads, including widening the Jane Addams Tollway between O'Hare and Rockford.
The other $4 billion would pay for extending the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway east into O'Hare International Airport and building a western bypass around O'Hare, constructing an interchange at the Tri-State and I-57, plus planning for expanding Route 53 north into Lake County.
The payoff, tollway officials say is less congestion, a gazillion jobs (OK, 120,000) and economic development.
But $12 billion doesn't come out of nowhere. Let's get into some specifics.
Toll plazas where I-PASS users in passenger cars typically pay 40 cents now, such as Elgin, River Road, Irving Park Road or Aurora, would rise by 35 cents to 75 cents.
At toll plazas with rates of 50 cents now, such as Army Trail Road or Touhy Avenue, fees would jump to 95 cents.
And if you coast through plazas where the toll is 80 cents, like Marengo/Hampshire, you'd say goodbye to $1.50.
Then, there are entrance or exit ramps that are tolled.
Rates at these access points range from the bargain 15 cents (eastbound Route 59 on the Jane Addams) to the super-sized 50 cents (Lake-Cook Road on the Tri-State).
Proposed increases differ correspondingly. A 15-cent ramp would rise to 30 cents, a 25-cent ramp would go up to 45 cents, a 30-cent would spike to 55 cents, and a 40-cent ramp would be 75 cents for I-PASS users in passenger cars.
How did we end up with such a potpourri?
"The rates at the plazas differ depending on how far apart they are spaced, when the road was constructed and if plazas on the road were eliminated or changed over the years," tollway Director of Communications Wendy Abrams said in an email.
"The rates are rounded to the nearest 5 cents. That is why the percentage increases are slightly different for the plazas."
If the increases occur, the tollway will rank 29th out of 41 toll-road agencies nationwide, among the bottom third in terms of price, Abrams said. Hearings on the plan start this week: • 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Kane County Government Center, 719 S. Batavia Ave., Geneva. • 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, DuPage County Government Center, 421 N. County Farm Road, Wheaton. • 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Libertyville Civic Center, 135 W. Church St. • 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Village of Huntley, 10987 Main St. • 4 to 6 p.m. Aug. 23, Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts, 201 Schaumburg Court. • 7 to 9 p.m. Aug. 23, Buffalo Grove Village Hall, 50 Raupp Blvd.
It was agony to pick finalists for the Best Road Trip Song contest with more than 50 fabulous entries from you.
That's why I handed the job over to the experts.
Veteran reporter Matt Arado writes about music and the arts for the Time out! section.
Jim Davis, DuPage editor and manager, is a guitar aficionado and frontman for his band, Voices.
Editor, designer and blogger Sean Stangland can sing a mean rendition of Tom Petty's "American Girl" and calls Minneapolis his favorite road-trip destination.
Their comments and picks, in alphabetical order, are below. Now, it's up to you to choose No. 1. Voting starts now and lasts until midnight Aug. 22. Send your nomination (only one per person) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
• "American Pie," Don McLean. If you've got a carload of people, you can't find a much better singalong than this. Love it or hate it, everyone knows the chorus.
• "Born to Be Wild," Steppenwolf. Don't you see Wyatt and Billy on their choppers in the opening scene of "Easy Rider" every time you hear this song? The ultimate road trip.
• "I Get Around," The Beach Boys. Few songs evoke summer driving more powerfully than this hit, which features an interesting chorus-comes-first structure.
• "I Want You to Want Me," Cheap Trick. A propulsive pop gem from Rockford's favorite sons.
• "On the Road Again," Willie Nelson. A reader favorite with five nominations.
• "One Way or Another," Blondie. A rockin' slice of New Wave pop perfect for blasting out open car windows.
• "The Rainbow Connection." Many of our fond road-trip memories are formed in childhood, and this song comes from "The Muppet Movie," which was, for many of a certain age, our first "road movie." The Muppets and, by extension, this song, symbolize everything that is good about being a kid. A vital piece of Americana.
• "Runnin' Down a Dream," Tom Petty. One of the most memorable guitar riffs ever. It's so up-tempo, the drummer has to play the high hat at half time to keep up. Great imagery of a trip to apparently nowhere at a breakneck pace.
• "Take It Easy," The Eagles. A breezy, evocative song that seems tailor-made for an open American highway and a carefree attitude. I'm sure hundreds of fans have taken road trips just to stand on that corner in Winslow, Ariz.
Thanks to all who submitted ideas. I'll list some more of the songs in a future column.
My heart breaks for Joe Garbarski of Campton Township. Here's why.
"I know it's road working season, but it's really frustrating when ALL of your options are under construction," he wrote In Transit.
"There is construction on Corron Road, Randall Road, Route 64, Stearns Road, Army Trail Road and Lake Street. Luckily, Silver Glen Road construction recently finished or I would be completely shut down. It makes absolutely no sense to me that planning of any kind is ignored when the major east-west arteries are all under construction at the same time. My travel time has been over one hour, and that's leaving at 6 a.m. and coming home at 7 p.m. It's just ridiculous."
Eight out of 10 child safety seats are installed incorrectly, authorities say. If you're not sure about yours, get advice from Illinois State Police experts from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at a tollway-sponsored Kids Identification Kit and Safety Seat event at the DuPage Children's Museum, 301 N. Washington St., Naperville.
This week, you get two warnings for the price of one.
First, avoid Irving Park Road like the plague between Cumberland Avenue and Des Plaines River Road until Sept. 1 or so. IDOT will close lanes for resurfacing.
Second, Mundelein drivers will have to suffer through three months of repairs to Midlothian Road between Midlothian and Old McHenry roads until Oct. 27. Beware of lane closures.