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updated: 4/2/2012 2:03 PM

Palatine senator pushes tough rules for toll hikes

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  • A bill sponsored by state Sen. Matt Murphy, a Republican from Palatine, would make it more difficult for tollway directors to authorize future toll hikes by requiring a supermajority of eight votes in favor of any increase.

       A bill sponsored by state Sen. Matt Murphy, a Republican from Palatine, would make it more difficult for tollway directors to authorize future toll hikes by requiring a supermajority of eight votes in favor of any increase.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Senators in drive

 
 

Credit state Sen. Matt Murphy for the Don Quixote bill of the year.

The Palatine Republican's bill requiring eight directors on the 11-member Illinois tollway board to approve future rate hikes sailed through the Senate.

And Murphy expects easy passage in the House, provided lawmakers there also are cranky about their I-PASS bills nearly doubling since January.

Of course, there's nothing the bill can do to prevent the toll increase that went into effect Jan. 1.

But Murphy said he's doing more than tilting at windmills, or tollbooths.

"It ought to be as hard as possible for a nonelected board to raise people's tolls," he said. "This will be more difficult with a super majority."

In reality, just nine people vote on the tollway board, as two ex-officio members -- the governor and secretary of state -- never attend meetings. When the tollway board agreed in August to raise rates, just one director, Bill Morris, said no while seven officials voted yes. One director position was open.

"Next time, you never know, two votes could make a difference," Murphy said.

Next time? Say it isn't so.

Murphy reassured me he wasn't aware of any more increases on the horizon.

Transit again in peril

There wasn't much rejoicing as Congress approved a ninth extension of transportation funding legislation last week.

The move gives lawmakers 90 days -- until June 30 -- to find a Kumbaya moment in order to pay for highways, bridges and transit.

The Regional Transportation Authority rained on the already soggy parade, saying the uncertainty surrounding transit revenues is hurting the ability of Metra, Pace and the CTA to borrow money to pay for summer construction.

"The result will be more delays and slow zones for Metra and El riders, more congestion on expressways, and longer commutes for everyone," RTA Executive Director Joe Costello said in a statement. "It is time for Congress to stop playing politics with the livelihoods of commuters and pass a multiyear bill that supports transit across our region."

Shocking news

Sales of the all-electric Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf may be flat, but for those Illinois drivers in possession of one of the gas teetotalers, Gov. Pat Quinn's got you covered.

The state is installing charging stations at tollway oases, including those at Des Plaines, Lake Forest, O'Hare and Lincoln. The tollway is expected to finish installing chargers at all seven oases soon.

But you should be forewarned, it's not free. Would-be chargers will be required to purchase a payment from 350 Green, the company operating the chargers.

For more information, contact 350green.com.

One more thing

It's spring, a time when a young man's fancy turns to his motorcycle. Actually, you can expect young and old men and women out on motorcycles with warmer weather, which is why Illinois Department of Transportation officials are cautioning drivers to keep an eye out for cyclists.

Motorcycle riders comprise just about 3 percent of registered vehicles in Illinois, but make up 16 percent of fatalities.

The state is also reminding bikers to keep their motorcycles inspected and serviced every year, to wear protective gear and to take advantage of training opportunities. For more information, check out startseeingmotorcycles.org/Courses.

Your voice

Lots of interesting comments after I wrote about an audit of Illinois agencies where employees were abusing or underusing state-issued vehicles.

Mike Griem of Lake Bluff wrote, "This practice is an unjustifiable luxury which reduces Illinois' capacity to pay its outstanding bills and become more fiscally solvent."

And David Henkel, who heads up a Niles business, thinks "many private companies were offering fully-paid vehicle programs to their executives and sales reps well into the 1980s. In my company, we had as many as 22 vehicles on a program until we decided it was a poor use of our resources.

"Clearly, we were not the only ones to make this observation, and the practice really dropped off in the 1990s. As usual, governmental agencies are a bit behind the times."

Upcoming

Speaking of green cars, the Chicago Area Clean Cities group holds a forum on the opportunities and obstacles related to electric vehicles. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 23 at Moraine Valley Community College, 9000 W. College Parkway, Palos Hills. For info, go to drive-electric-illinois.

Gridlock alert

Tri-State Tollway warriors should brace themselves for resurfacing fun. Work starts today between Balmoral Avenue in Rosemont and 95th Street in Oak Lawn. Expect traffic shifts and lane closures overnight. Construction should end by fall.

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