A government agency
which operates the toll highway
s of the State of Illinois
mostly in the vicinity of Chicago
. It collects tolls
from drivers at toll plaza
s spaced periodically along the highways. Plazas and interchange
s are placed so that it is impossible to escape paying a toll, regardless of how short a trip is made. Some plazas are on entrance or exit ramps, but most are enormous concrete affairs placed across the highway. It uses a pay-as-you-go system, unlike the pay-on-exit ticketed system used by the Indiana Toll Road
and several well-known US East Coast Turnpike
s. It also uses a radio transponder
system (the I-Pass
) to collect tolls from the debit accounts of frequent users. (These transponders now have a digital display of funds remaining, unlike the "dumb" systems used in southern California
The original intent of the Authority was collect tolls to pay off the bonds issued to finance construction of the highways in the 1960s and early 1970s, after which the Authority would remove the plazas and open the highways for free use. However, they stayed up for decades longer, feeding a patronage- and corruption-riddled organization whose most notorious highlight was the revelation that its late-1980s director had made frequent use of Authority helicopters to make booty calls on his girlfriend in Springfield.
Highways controlled by the Tollway Authority are the Tri-State Tollway (Interstate 294 bypassing Chicago, and Interstate 94 from Deerfield to the Wisconsin border,) as well as the Edens Spur (Interstate 94 between the Edens Expressway and the Lake-Cook Rd/I-294 interchage,) the Northwest Tollway (Interstate 90 from Wisconsin, through Rockford, to Chicago near O'Hare Airport,) the East-West Tollway (Interstate 88 from Elmhurst, west of Chicago, to Dixon, continuing free to the Quad Cities, and the North-South Tollway (Interstate 355 from Glen Ellyn to Lemont.)
Tolls at most plazas were originally in the US$0.10 to US$0.15, rising to $0.30 in the 1970s, and $0.40 in the late 1980s. With complaints of tremendous congestion coming from their constituents, state legislators started gunning for the Authority in the late 1990s. Several plazas have been removed, and tolls at many others have been raised to $0.50, $0.75, and threaten to close in upon a full dollar, as the vision of a future without tollways coalesces.