No More Coin Buckets at Tolls But Weren’t Illinois Tollways Supposed to be ‘Free’ Ways?

Illinois — Those yellow coin buckets we’ve all seen when driving Illinois tollways is about to get a makeover. No more tossing in change or having to scramble to find change for those drivers still not using iPass or, just like to pay as you go, when traveling on the states paid freeways.

The Daily Herald reports about 100 of the machines still exist but are soon to be updated featuring touch screens that can accept credit cards or bills as well as coins.

Agency leaders approved a deal Thursday to replace the buckets at toll booths. Tollway spokesman Dan Rozek said the toll buckets are at least 20 years old and they’re hard to fix because parts are scarce.

The new machines will cost about $76,000 a piece and will be installed gradually, with the rollout finishing within one year of the contract being signed this spring.

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The old coin machines collect about $14 million a year. Transactions at the new machines will also be videotaped.

But in a report dated August 25, 2011 by ABC 7 Chicago, many Illinoisans ask what happened to the original plan to make tollways “free” ways?

They say that in 1973 Illinois taxpayers had been promised their original 187 miles of tollways would be paid off and the roads would be turned into freeways. When the first three tollways opened more than 50 years ago, they cost a quarter at the main plazas and 10 cents at the exits.

Their report states that Illinois freeways weren’t supposed to be eternal tollways.

In 1953, when the Illinois General Assembly created the Illinois State Toll Highway Commission, it was to borrow money to build highways. The tolls were intended to pay off those bonds. Then the roads were to become freeways, maintained by the gas tax.

But, in 1968, the General Assembly made permanent the Toll Highway Authority, still chartered to borrow money to build highways, but with no expectation of making them free.

The 2010 tollway budget is $696 million. There are more than 1,700 full-time employees, including 754 who collect the money.

In the 1950s, then Governor Bill Stratton convinced the public and legislators that the tollway was temporary. Stratton, now deceased, said in 1989, “Our idea was, at the end of 40 years, when the bonds were paid off, then the tolls would come off.”



2 thoughts on “No More Coin Buckets at Tolls But Weren’t Illinois Tollways Supposed to be ‘Free’ Ways?

  • February 27, 2017 at 11:33 am

    another lie from our famous Illinois. And why does 180 miles of road need that many employees? And where is all that money going to? And they still borrow money for roads? smells like something rotten in Denmark if you ask me.

  • February 27, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Diane, It’s not “another lie from our famous Illinois,” as you suggest. I agree that the original intent was to pay for the highway bonds and then make it part of the Interstate system. However, as the years passed and costs of maintenance, repair, and new and expanded construction demands increased, the law was changed in the late 1960’s – not lie – law was changed, to meet the changing and expanding needs of the system. So in other words it was “reset” in the late 60’s. The Illinois Tollways use toll funds and do not use State or Federal dollars for maintenance and operations. Here are two hyperlinks with very good overviews (2012 and 2014) of the planning, maintenance and needs of the Illinois tollway system. It was a good education when I read it. So Diane, to your point of, “smells like something rotten in Denmark if you ask me,” comment, it would appear that the Tollway Authority is not as nefarious as you suggest.

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