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updated: 1/16/2012 6:10 PM

Suburbanites swap tales of toll avoidance

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  • Find a pothole like this, and you could be the winner of the In Transit Worst Pothole Contest 2012.

      Find a pothole like this, and you could be the winner of the In Transit Worst Pothole Contest 2012.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

You are the 4.5 percent.

There's suburbanite Therese Davis, who has turned to Roosevelt Road instead of I-88 to reach work in Oak Park.

Lake County's Pam Eidmann cuts short her Tri-State Tollway commute.

And Randy Ballschmiede of West Dundee is learning to embrace Route 72.

Those are just a few road warriors choosing alternate routes after the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority nearly doubled fees Jan. 1 to fund a massive $12 billion construction program.

Car transactions declined by 4.5 percent since the changes went into effect, the tollway said Tuesday. Officials didn't give out specific numbers, but, to put it in perspective, there were 820 million car and truck transactions in 2010.

Today, we check in with drivers contributing to that 4.5 percent and hear about their experiences.

Ready to fire their I-PASS

• Reader Bruno Melone writes, "I've been trying to limit my tollway usage since the rates went up. This past weekend, I took Route 83 to make my way down from Arlington Heights to my brother's house in Orland Park. Normally, I would have gotten on I-290 near Woodfield to I-355 and gotten off at 143rd Street. Not a big time difference and I kept a few dollars in my pocket!"

• Eidmann's money-saving idea is "I am not using the (Tri-State) tollway between Route 173 and Grand Avenue anymore. I now take Hunt Club Road to Wadsworth to Dilley's (Road) to Grand and get on the tollway there. I do pay a ramp toll to get off at Route 60. It only adds five minutes to my drive in the morning, 10 minutes coming home."

• Jim Betustak "used to pay $1 to get from Lindenhurst to Chicago on I-294 and the Edens Expressway, a round trip of 92 miles. Now I take Route 41 to the Edens -- I save $1.90 and the round trip is 4 miles less. Travel time is the same. Go figure."

• Davis says using Roosevelt Road instead of I-88 is "really not that much longer of a drive, and I feel good about not giving in to what I essentially feel was a criminal act: highway robbery!"

• Tom Pichla was "traveling both ways to work and back on the tollway. I now found it is just as easy and seems to take the same or less time to avoid it. Instead of getting on I-294 south at Northwest Highway and taking I-90 into the city, I just go by O'Hare and get on I-90 there. My dad told me long ago the tollways were supposed to be a temporary thing until the roads were paid for. Well, I don't like to be lied to."

• Ballschmiede works for American Airlines at O'Hare and lives in West Dundee. Until Jan. 1 he "drove the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90) to and from work -- from Route 31 to Arlington Heights Road. Guess what -- with the toll increase (which would have cost me a total of $40 monthly) I'm driving to and from work down good-old, free Route 72 and my trip at best takes me five minutes longer.

"I have to concede that on the snow nights I will have little choice (but) to use the tollway. But for the most part, my I-PASS usage will be next to nothing."

Counter point

Jeff Perkins of Hoffman Estates cautioned me not to be so hasty in dumping I-355 for Route 83 in my daily commute, which I wrote about last week.

"First you left out the added costs of your new route," Perkins said.

Among them, he says, are higher gas bills and the wear and tear on my car caused by stop-and-go driving between Downers Grove and Arlington Heights.

"Assume 25 mpg highway and 20 mpg in traffic. You would use about 1.4 more gallons of gas per week. At $3.63 per gallon, that comes to about $5 a week in additional fuel costs. Subtracting that from the $6.75 weekly savings in tolls leaves you with a savings of $1.75, about enough for a cup of coffee," Perkins added.

"This not to mention the other negatives. The additional fuel used by the thousands of people who change their route will have an environmental impact. Increased emissions will negatively impact local air quality and carbon dioxide emissions may contribute to global warming."

And Richard Christensen also bucked the trend of emailers.

"I will continue to use the tollway," he wrote. "I drive to Mount Prospect from South Beloit every other day. I was spending about $55 per month on tolls. That will be now about $110. I am OK with it. It is still faster and more efficient than using the local roadways. The other thing people need to understand, that it is basically a user tax. If you use it, you pay for it. If you don't use it, you don't pay for it. I have no problem with that."

Thrilling announcement!

Introducing the In Transit Worst Pothole Contest 2012!

With the warm weather, I was afraid this might be a noN-starter, but the Illinois climate came through. Thank you, winter.

We're looking for a photo of the most horrific pothole you've encountered this season with a date and location. Send it to mpyke@dailyherald.com.

The contest ends March 1, and the winner will receive a free wash courtesy of Sharkey's Car Wash in Rolling Meadows, plus some fabulous Daily Herald gear.

Who picks the worst pothole, you may ask? Judging will be done by none other than Argonne National Laboratory's Don Hillebrand and a team of pothole experts.

Hillebrand, an engineering Ph.D. who directs Argonne's Center for Transportation Research, will be evaluating diameter, depth and impact/damage potential. Criteria also could include artistic expression, beauty and resemblance to Illinois politicians.

One important note: We spent 2011 writing about the dangers of distracted driving. So have a passenger shoot your pothole or snap it from the sidewalk. Let's be careful out there.

Gridlock alert

Watch out for culvert repairs tonight on I-90 between Route 83 and the Devon Avenue toll plaza.

Upcoming

Tired of tolls? Why don't you bike to work Friday? Yes, the Active Transportation Alliance is sponsoring its annual celebration of cyclists on Winter Bike to Work Day. Those brave enough to two-wheel it into town will be treated with hot drinks from 6:30 to 9 a.m. at Daley Plaza. For more information, check out activetrans.org.

One more thing

Do you love transportation? Of course, you do. So treat yourself with a visit to my new Facebook page cleverly named Marni Pyke Transportation at www.facebook.com/#!/pykeintransit. All the transportation news, tidbits, gossip and research that's fit to print. Join the conversation.

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