As long as we are talking about raising the gas tax at the fuel pump, letâ€™s pay a few cents more and get rid of the toll booths on Illinoisâ€™ highways. I have found that the Illinois Tollway Authority is taking us for a ride on what they think is their highway.
Referring to the toll authority budget, they are predicting that the income for 2009 from the toll/tax and other sources will be $680 million. Of the two services that drivers are most concerned about, the authority will pay out $63.9 million for engineering (road maintenance) and $23.4 million for state police. And there is a $210 million payment toward the outstanding bonds.
If my math is correct, that leaves $382.7 million for operating expenses and other expenditures that there would be no need for if there were no tollway system in Illinois. Let me give a few examples: $11 million for enterprise resource planning (whatever that is); $7.5 million for information technology systems; $17.7 million for electronic tolling systems (just a few years ago the authority spent over $500 million on this system). Money left over goes into a slush fund to be used any way the toll authority director or our governor sees fit. In 2006, impeached Gov. Blagojevich moved $44.7 million from this fund to the state treasury.
The toll authority will never run short of funds for favorite projects, as they can raise the toll/tax anytime they want without any approval of our elected legislators in Springfield. By getting rid of the toll booths, tollway users would save millions of toll/tax dollars and there would no longer be a haven for corruption at the toll authority headquarters in Downers Grove. Turn these roads over to the Illinois Department of Transportation; they can do a better job at a lower cost.