Motorists Fight New Toll Hike in Illinois

      CHICAGO (CN) – The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority has violated taxpayers’ civil rights with plans to increase tolls by 35 cents and charge motorists to use a freeway, a class claims in Cook County Circuit Court.
     Five officers with Taxpayers United of America filed the class action against the Illinois State Toll Authority to stop the plan, which the agency adopted last month.
     The increases are scheduled to take effect this January, but Taxpayers United says the 15-year, $12 billion plan is the latest affront to a 1953 law that mandates Illinois become a toll-free state.
     As part of the plan, the toll authority intends to double the toll of motorists driving without an I-Pass and convert the Elgin O’Hare West Bypass freeway into a tollway, according to the 15-page complaint.
     “The tollway is a creature of statute that went into affect in July 1953,” Taxpayers United president James Tobin, one of the plaintiffs, said 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 into freeways.”
     “Instead, the tollway keeps expanding, building more toll roads, and hiking tolls, ensuring that it will live forever,” he added. “This is contrary to the legislative intent of its creators.”
     Tobin and his four co-plaintiffs say the toll authority continues to issue new construction bonds to avoid phasing itself out.
     With the new plan, the toll authority can “continue its existence at least through 2026, a total of 73 years,” the suit states.
     Other defendants named in the action are Illinois Tollway Board of Directors chair Paula Wolf and Texas-based Electronic Transaction Consultants Corporation, which won the toll authority’s open-road tolling contract in 2005.
     The class sued for declaratory relief, civil rights violations and seeks an injunction to reverse the $12 billion dollar plan. It is represented by Andrew Spiegel of Taxpayers United.

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