Saturday, August 28, 2004

Illinois Toll Hikes: An Activist's Misleading Criticism

Governor Blagojevich (who happens to live just a few blocks from me) just unveiled a plan to double tolls for truckers and for people who pay cash instead of using the automated I-PASS system. From yesterday's Daily Herald:
Wadsworth resident Susan Zingle, of the Lake County Conservation Alliance, was not so patient. She said doubling tolls for drivers who pay cash will have a "devastating impact" for Lake County residents.

"That is an unconscionable burden to put on people," Zingle told the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority's board Thursday morning...
Now wait a minute. Ms. Zingle is trying to tell us this will have a "devastating impact" for Lake County residents? I sincerely doubt this. First of all, Lake County is pretty affluent overall. I don't think the guy driving his Lexus to work is going to sweat a higher toll. He probably has I-PASS anyway. Besides, there is only one tollway in Lake County, and there are plenty of alternatives (US 41 and IL 21, for starters). "An unconscionable burden," she says? Anyone who uses the tollway enough to be burdened will get an I-PASS unit. The people who will really bear the brunt of this increase are truckers, out-of-towners, and occasional users (am I going to get an I-PASS transponder for the 2-3 times per month that I drive on the tollway?).

Why are higher tolls "unconscionable?" With all the things going on in our country today, I hardly think toll increases are worthy of such hyperbole. Heck, using the tollway is completely voluntary. Nobody is forcing anyone to pay anything. In that sense, it is one of the fairest "taxes" around (vs. taxes for schools, libraries, forest preserves, etc., which we pay for whether we use them or not).

Ms. Zingle is clearly full of it, but at least I know why. Although Blagojevich said nothing about it, increasing tolls could eventually fund an extension of IL 53 into Lake County. That's why Zingle is getting all bent out of shape. I just wish people would be more up front about their agendas or at least that the newspapers would call them on it.

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