Will Kane County residents be charged less to cross Longmeadow bridge?
Kane County Board members opposed to the Longmeadow Parkway project may not be able to stop construction of a toll bridge over the Fox River, but they may be able to make the tolls cheaper for local residents.
Board member Mo Iqbal on Tuesday called for Chicago-based Stantec Consulting to research the ability to identify local residents as they cross the bridge and charge them a cheaper rate than people who do not live in Kane County. Iqbal pointed out it's not uncommon to charge different rates for vehicles of varying sizes, or even those paying by cash instead of with a transponder.
"There should be another category of resident versus nonresident," he said.
The county board on Tuesday approved a contract with Stantec, the company that will serve as an expert adviser to the county as officials go about creating the first Kane County-based toll bridge as part of the ongoing Longmeadow Parkway construction.
Some local residents have opposed the project during board votes and through attempts to halt the project through the court system. So far, those efforts have been unsuccessful. Those residents have, however, been successful in electing several Kane County Board members, including Iqbal, who are sympathetic to their concerns in the last two election cycles.
One of the selling points of the toll bridge, which will be situated on the far northern end of the county, is the idea that McHenry County residents would help pay for the project via the tolls they'd pay to cross the bridge. Because of the bridge's location, opponents have long suggested McHenry County should help foot the bill. That help never materialized.
Board member Drew Frasz, one of the project's leading supporters, offered no opposition to Iqbal's proposal. KDOT staff said they anticipated such a suggestion in the formation of the contract with Stantec. Studying the ability to charge non-Kane County residents a different rate will not increase the costs of the contract.
The idea of charging different toll rates depending on where you live is not new. It's common in several East Coast states, including New York and Massachusetts. The practice spawned lawsuits alleging violations of the Constitution's commerce clause, but the tolling continues.
County board member Theresa Barreiro opposed studying the idea. She indicated she would vote against an actual plan to charge non-Kane County residents a different rate.
"We should not penalize people for coming back and forth into and from Kane County, perhaps for work," she said. "We do not want them to have an excess toll just because they are not a resident of the county."
The county board has not yet locked in any kind of a toll rate for the bridge. There is some hope a capital bill by state lawmakers could provide enough funding to end the need for any toll.
"That is a possibility, but it's a long shot," Frasz said. "In the meantime, we need to keep this rolling."