Taxpayers group sues to stop toll increase

The Illinois tollway shouldn’t even exist let alone have a spike in rates Jan. 1, a lawsuit filed by a taxpayers’ watchdog group claims.

Taxpayers United of America sued the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority Thursday, seeking to halt increases of 35 cents to 45 cents at most toll plazas in 2012.

Stopping the toll hike through litigation “is the only way to do it right now outside a revolution,” Taxpayers United President Jim Tobin said. “I think our chances (in court) are fair to good.”

Tollway officials said it would be premature to comment in detail given they hadn’t had a chance to review the lawsuit. But a spokeswoman stated the agency was confident it had followed the process as required under Illinois law.

Taxpayers United attorneys filed suit in Cook County court and are seeking class-action status.

The lawsuit asks the court to undo the toll increase, stating that the agency has violated state law by failing to convert the tollways into freeways after construction loans were paid off and to plan for its own demise.

“They were supposed to get rid of the authority in 1973 — the slogan was ‘toll free in ’73,’” Tobin said.

Authority leaders contend the increase is necessary for a $12 billion construction program to maintain and repair existing tollways. In addition, the agency intends to widen the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90), extend the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway east and build an interchange at I-57 and the Tri-State Tollway.

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