Pyke: Readers say 'no' to tolls on Elgin-O'Hare Expressway
Avowed toll boycotters scored a lopsided 51-2 victory over toll users, if you count the spontaneous emails that poured into my inbox after last week's column about the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway's conversion from a freeway to a tollway starting in July.
Comments such as "utterly ridiculous," "pointless" and "crazy" were among the PG-rated descriptions of the move that would institute tolls averaging 20 cents a mile on the Elgin-O'Hare (Route 390).
The evolution is part of the Illinois tollway's plan to extend the Elgin-O'Hare to the airport. Months of improvements to the existing portion between Lake Street and I-290 are wrapping up, and the agency will pull the switch this summer, meaning I-PASS users would pay $1.25 to travel the 6½-mile stretch. The entire project from Lake Street to O'Hare costs $3.4 billion -- hence the tolls.
Here's a sampling of comments, starting with Michael Vincenzo, who won't gamble with his tolls.
"I use Route 390 two to three times per week to travel to the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin," the Schaumburg resident wrote. "Once the tolls come into play, I will avoid the road, taking alternatives, such as Irving Park Road or Schaumburg Road. At the very least, I can take 90 to Route 31, and pay one toll, to get to the casino. The rate of 20 cents per mile is utterly ridiculous."
Even though Scott Dahlstrom's Roselle home is a stone's throw from Route 390 and his soon-to-be workplace is next to an off-ramp, "I will never pay to travel 20 minutes to work. As long as the state doesn't put a toll on Irving Park Road and with so many alternate routes ... I just don't see many commuters paying to travel that distance," he said.
Eileen Szubert of Bartlett asks the rhetorical question, "is Illinois trying to convince people to leave this state or at least move out of the Chicago metro area? Honestly, Wisconsin is looking better and better all the time."
Christa Follett of Bartlett estimates she'd pay $2.50 a day to commute to work and nearly $4 to drop off and pick up her son from school. "Guess we'll have to take the back roads," she concluded.
The number of toll contrarians begs the question: If the boycott sticks, would traffic implode on surrounding roads?
Maia Tihista of Roselle is certain it will. "Toll amounts are outrageous and I know the communities around the highway are going to get the influx of traffic trying to avoid the tolls. It's crazy," she said.
You should know
Not everyone was a toll hater.
Josh Powell of Elgin gave a thumbs-up to recent upgrades. "The performance on this road is amazing compared to what it was three years ago," he wrote. But, "I'm really not looking forward to having to pay $1.25 to get from Lake Street to I-290."
And Kris Hardt Hixson, who takes the expressway from Roselle to Arlington Heights, will stick with it. "The few dollars a day are far better than the countless hours I've spent sitting in traffic," she said.
One more thing
I checked in with Illinois tollway folks, who counter the project is "broadly supported by local communities who emphasized the need to build the new roadway to address the area's diverse travel needs, including improving travel efficiency, reducing congestion and providing western access to O'Hare International Airport."
The aim is for an efficient roadway that will "eliminate stop-and-go driving, make travel more convenient and help reduce noise and auto emissions by eliminating intersections," spokesman Dan Rozek said.
Tolling on a section from I-290 to Route 83 should begin at the end of 2017. I-PASS customers would pay $1.90 to travel the full 10 miles of Route 390 when it's complete, which is similar to the toll on the I-355 south extension between I-55 and I-80.
Surveys showed 90 percent of Route 390 drivers use I-PASS, and one-quarter of commuters without transponders intend to get one, Rozek said.
Got an opinion on tolling the Elgin-O'Hare? Drop me an email at email@example.com.
• Ouch. Construction is ramping up on the eastbound Jane Addams Tollway (I-90), which means some traffic shifts and lane reductions near the River Road Toll Plaza.
• Irving Park Road between Route 83 and South Access Road in Bensenville will be a mess until fall. Lane closures in both directions are expected as IDOT improves the intersection of York Street and Irving Park.