Editorial: Your chance to weigh in on tolled lanes on the Eisenhower
On some days, you'd almost pay a king's ransom to bypass that everlasting bottleneck on the Eisenhower Expressway and make it to your meeting or party or office without enduring the long, slow crawl between Mannheim Road and Austin Avenue.
But should you?
That's the question as the Illinois Department of Transportation collects public input this month on a proposal to build another lane in each direction on the Eisenhower for drivers who have at least two passengers or who pay a toll, while the existing lanes would remain toll-free. I-55 would get similar treatment.
Tolls in Illinois almost exclusively hit travelers in the suburbs. That's one reason we're not immediate fans of the proposal to add tolled lanes to two of the few remaining freeways in the Chicago area.
Along with that, we're uncomfortable with the idea of those who can afford to pay a few bucks a day sailing right past those who can't.
The idea, however, does have merits that keep us from dismissing it out of hand.
It would encourage carpooling and offer a practical way to build a new lane at a time when the gas-tax-funded Federal Highway Trust Fund is strapped and the state is broke. Drivers of any means could use the new lanes without charge if they had two passengers, allowing at least some access for those less able to pay.
And there's the lure of a constant 45 mph speed, which IDOT says it could ensure in its HOT (for high-occupancy toll) lanes.
What do you think about it? Now's the time to get familiar with the project and make your viewpoint known. IDOT is collecting public comments at hearings beginning at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park and Jan. 26 at the Marriott Chicago -- Medical District in Chicago. Details about the project and the hearings are at http://eisenhowerexpressway.com. You can submit written comments until Feb. 13.
We have a few to help you get started. Why not make the HOT lanes toll-free for drivers with one passenger, instead of two? That's a lot more realistic for drivers seeking riders to share the trip to work.
And how about a ride-pairing service that includes same-day matchups, adding flexibility for drivers whose work hours are unpredictable?
If IDOT moves ahead, it might well be setting a new standard for how highway expansions are paid for in the Chicago area. Here's your chance to have your say about it.