Group Files Suit to Fight Illinois Toll Hike

Taxpayers United of America filed the lawsuit Thursday on behalf of taxpayers

By Lisa Balde
|  Thursday, Sep 22, 2011  |  Updated 3:48 PM CDT
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Group Files Suit to Fight Illinois Toll Hike

Julia Buckley

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A taxpayer organization is suing the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, aiming to stop a recently approved toll hike.

Jim Tobin, president of Taxpayers United of America (TUA), filed the lawsuit Thursday on behalf of taxpayers. The suit seeks to roll back the 35-cent toll increase approved last month to help pay for a $12 billion, 15-year capital improvement plan.

The suit alleges the Tollway Authority violated state law by not doing what it promised years ago: to convert tollways to freeways.

Tollway officials declined to comment as they have not yet seen the complaint.

In 1953, the state decided to pay for the Tri-State Tollway and the Northwest Tollway with fares, rather than taxes. Once the construction bonds were paid off, the plan was that tollways would be free. That didn't happen.

“The tollway is a creature of statute that went into effect in July 1953,” said Tobin in a statement. “The slogan of the authority was ‘Toll Free in ’73.’ That was when the toll roads were to be paid off and converted to freeways.”

But the tollway keeps expanding, Tobin said, and the toll authority keeps hiking the cost of admission.

"This is contrary to the legislative intent of its creators," he said.

The lawsuit asks the court to stop the higher tolls, slated to go into effect Jan. 1, until the Tollway Authority makes good on its promises and "complies with the law."

Tollway officials have said the toll is necessary to make roadway improvements. Some commuters told NBCChicago they're OK with the increase in exchange for the approximately 120,000 permanent jobs the project promises to create.

But others are worried about how the extra cost will affect their budget.

"If you keep raising prices, we can't use the tollway," said Mike Hart of the Illinois Trucking Association.

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