Tollway's congestion-busting plan worthy of toll increase
Okay, so my job includes the expectation that there will be times when I’m voicing support for changes that are unpopular with the general public. When the Tollway recently released Move Illinois: The Illinois Tollway Driving the Future, a $12 billion, 15-year capital plan for infrastructure improvements throughout the Chicago region, I was ready. Since the plan includes a proposed 35-cent toll hike—the first increase for I-PASS customers since 1983 and cash paying users would continue to pay double—I was anticipating much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Predictably, there is some, but it’s refreshing to hear numerous comments like Keisha Smith who told Daily Herald reporter Marni Pyke, “If it means better roads, it will be a plus for me.”
That tells me the public is ready to be leveled with and is willing to invest in solutions that deliver results. If successful, the Tollway’s plan will send a jarring wake-up call to all levels of government. The plan includes:
- $8.08 billion to improve existing roads
- Rebuild and widen the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90)
- Rebuild the central Tri-State Tollway (I-294) and Edens Spur (I-94)
- Preserve the Reagan (I-88) and Veterans (I-355) Memorial Tollways
- $4.07 billion to improve regional mobility
- Mass transit on Jane Addams Tollway
- Tri-State Tollway Interchange (I-294/I-57) connection
- Elgin O'Hare West Bypass
- Begin planning for Illinois Route 53 Corridor and Illiana Expressway
MPC emphasized Chicagoland’s need for speed in two reports: 2008’s Moving at the Speed of Congestion and 2010’s The Road Less Traveled: Exploring Congestion Pricing in Chicagoland. The Chicago region loses an estimated $7.3 billion annually due to wasted time, fuel, and environmental damages. The average commuter loses two-and-a-half extra days every year stuck behind the wheel in traffic. The Tollway’s plan will target some of the region’s worst bottlenecks, transforming congested roadways into a state-of-the-art transportation system.
In addition to saving Chicago area commuters time and money, the Tollway’s plan would provide a $21 billion boost to Illinois’ economy. The economic development spurred by this project will be long-term, creating 120,000 permanent jobs in Illinois. Annual construction spending of $1 billion would create an additional 13,000 construction jobs each year and would sustain them for the decade duration of the project.
And even after the increase, Illinois’ toll rate would still rank among the most affordable third in the nation. Twenty-eight years ago (!), I was a broke college student scraping together $3.15 to buy a movie ticket, which today costs the average American $8.01—a 250 percent increase. MPC commends the Tollway for its congestion-busting innovations and unabashedly supports its proposal to raise tolls to support a plan that will create jobs and spearhead economic development.
MPC is working to combat regional congestion on multiple fronts! Please join MPC on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011, for a roundtable releasing Bus Rapid Transit: Chicago’s New Route to Opportunity, a vision for Chicago’s transportation and community development future that puts people first. This report, based on MPC's groundbreaking new screening method for assessing transit investments, identifies the top 10 routes in Chicago where Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is feasible, best supports existing community assets, and fills accessibility gaps in the current transit network. The roundtable will feature Enrique Peñalosa, former Mayor of Bogotá and current President of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), who will examine that city's BRT experience and lessons learned. ITDP's Annie Weinstock will make the case for gold-standard BRT, and Chicago Dept. of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein will examine the new administration's BRT goals.
If you can't make it to the Chicago event, you can register for a 30-minute webinar on Thursday, Aug. 18, from 10 to 10;30 a.m. CDT. The report's lead researchers will explain how they developed this groundbreaking new method, which is based on 14 quantifiable "livability metrics." They and guest Annie Weinstock also will explain how this method made a difference in the proposed BRT network in Chicago, what potential it could have to help cities invest in transit that provides economic and community benefits, and how it can be readily adapted to enable cities and regions to make better decisions.