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Archive for the ‘Illinois Tollway’ Category

Gov.-Pritzker-signing

Two bills on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk would spend $20 million to add license plate monitoring cameras to 6,600 miles of highways in 22 counties. Civil rights groups fret about abuse. Illinois State Police can’t say they increase safety.

Two bills on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk could expand Illinois highway camera monitoring program to cover 6,600 more miles of road across 22 counties as the General Assembly looks to crack down on expressway crime before November elections.

House Bill 260 and House Bill 448 – passed alongside 80 other proposals in the final day of the legislative session – would see the governor expand a license plate monitoring pilot program from Cook County to the rest of Illinois with $20 million in new funding.

The measure would add hundreds of new cameras while increasing the number of crimes the cameras can be used to investigate and number of parties who can prosecute them.

While lawmakers argue the bills could assist in the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed on state expressways, the Illinois State Police note they have been unable to quantify the number of crimes solved by the cameras during the Cook County pilot program.

Civil liberty groups opposed to the devices said there is a lack of transparency that leaves the program ripe for abuse. There is no information on how cameras are placed, there is a ban on drivers reviewing footage when charged with violations and there are requirements for law enforcement to delete video 120 days after recording – essentially destroying the evidence.

ISP spokesman Melaney Arnold said the agency would finalize and share camera locations only after the bill was signed into law. The new legislation notably excludes explicit guidance on which roadways would receive the additional monitoring.

More here.

Related:Highway camera expansion covering 6,600 miles of road in 22 counties awaits Pritzker’s signature

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Charging Stations

Is an electric vehicle on your wishlist for Santa? It’s a fabulous gift. But unlike other battery-operated toys under the tree, recharging is more complex than just grabbing a new AA.

Fortunately, the stars are in alignment for rookie EV owners in 2022 with the federal and state government investing heavily in expanding what now is a limited number of charging stations.

“Everybody’s going to see more stations,” explained John Walton, Chicago Area Clean Cities chairman. However, “there’s more than what most people realize.”

The U.S. Department of Energy’s charger locator listed 46,088 public charging stations nationwide as of Friday. Of those, nearly 90% are standard Level 2 units, which deliver a full charge in six to eight hours. The remainder are DC Fast chargers that can provide up to 80% power in about 30 minutes, Walton said.

Close to home, a quick check on Clean Cities’ station locator shows chargers at diverse spots such as the Rolling Meadows courthouse, a Lisle Mobil station, College of Lake County, Delnor Hospital in Geneva, the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin and the AMC Lake in the Hills 12 cinemas.

It’s a little random. And it’s definitely not enough, Walton noted. “Sometimes it seems like there’s no rhyme nor reason,” he said.

Read more here.

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Toll Farce

Where did you go, toll collection machine? Probably in storage, after the Illinois tollway mothballed more than 100 units, which all told cost about $20 million to purchase and maintain.( Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer)

In roughly four years, a fleet of over 100 automatic payment machines along the Illinois tollway has sunk from essential tools to expensive white elephants.

The machines’ short but eventful lifetimes span two different tollway administrations under former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Their price tag is more than $20 million, split between purchase and maintenance costs.

Back in early 2017, the tollway board under Rauner decided to replace its aging coin buckets with “more technologically advanced automatic toll payment machines that will provide more payment options and better service to our customers,” spokesman Dan Rozek said at the time.

“The new ATPMs will cost less than $100,000 each and will offer more payment options than the current coin machines, which are at least 20 years old, accept only coins, and are difficult to repair because replacement parts have to be specially manufactured.”

Gradually the new machines popped up across the system from DeKalb to Oak Lawn. But not everyone was happy with the innovations.

In November 2019, the Daily Herald reported that 80 out of 110 machines installed did not provide change to drivers paying in cash. As a result, the agency was overpaid about $152,000.

The new team of tollway leaders appointed by Pritzker stood by the technology, noting that “the ATPMs operate reliably and function well in real-world conditions, with the machines as a whole remaining fully operational more than 99% of the time.”

Read more here.

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Insurance

As many as 1.5 million uninsured Illinois drivers will have something new to worry about starting July 1: computers, twice a year, will try to catch them.

On July 1, the Illinois Secretary of State will begin using a vendor to check the insurance status of all drivers in Illinois in an effort to reduce the number of uninsured drivers. The computer checks will be twice a year and most drivers won’t even know about them, unless the computer can’t find a driver’s insurance info.

Then a warning letter is generated stating their license plates are being suspended.

After the warning letter, uninsured drivers will be required to obtain insurance and a $100 fine will be imposed to reinstate the plates.

If the state sends the warning letter and a driver does have insurance, the driver must contact their insurance agent, provide them the reference number from the warning notice and the agent must then resolve the matter with the state.

Illinois has about 8.5 million drivers, and estimates between 1.2 million and 1.5 million don’t have the required liability insurance. The Illinois Secretary of State estimates the random checks can reduce that by several hundred thousand.

Read on here.

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53 Greenway

First came the Illinois Prairie Path, one of the first rail-to-trail conversions in the United States. Later, The 606 trail in Chicago attracted crowds of bikers and runners and led to skyrocketing nearby property values. Now, a group of conservationists and elected officials in Lake County are pushing to turn a former proposed tollway corridor into a greenway — a trail through a long, narrow nature preserve.

Illinois lawmakers recently approved a resolution calling for a task force to study alternate uses for the proposed extension of Illinois Route 53 in the northwest suburbs. The effort picks up where Illinois tollway officials left off in 2019 when they dropped plans for the road.

Believers in the project cite it as an example of a popular trend away from highways and greenhouse gas emissions, and toward preservation of natural areas. Critics see it as a boondoggle for a relatively small number of people, rather than a project that could have served 100,000 drivers a day and spurred economic development.

While Republicans traditionally have supported road projects, the resolution passed unanimously in both chambers, suggesting growing bipartisan support for nature paths.

“These become beloved spaces where diverse residents, young and old, flock to get fresh air, walk, bike, and share a moment with each other,” said Gerald Adelmann, president and CEO of the nonprofit Openlands conservation group. “This is our moment to create that kind of legacy for our communities.”

Road builders see it differently. Mike Sturino, president of the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association, cited widespread past support for the expressway.

“The majority of working people suffer when you pull the plug on needed infrastructure,” Sturino said. “I like bike lanes, but we have to be realistic. It’s shocking when respectable officials are browbeaten by a radical fringe to go along with this reckless move.”

Read more here.

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FAA

A rendering of the new Global Terminal at O’Hare International Airport, expected to be completed by 2028. It will replace Terminal 2.

The Federal Aviation Administration is scrutinizing Chicago’s monumental plan to build a new global terminal at O’Hare International Airport, punch a hole in its west side and add two new concourses.

The review will assess whether the proposal is likely to significantly affect the environment — and you have an opportunity to chime in. Comments from the public are being accepted now through July 9.

The result could trigger a more detailed environmental impact statement or the FAA could conclude there’s no significant issues.

Known as the Airport Terminal Project, its blockbuster feature is a $2.2 billion Global Terminal that will accommodate domestic and international airlines with customs and immigration services. The billowy, Y-shaped design, created by a team led by Chicago architect Jeanne Gang, incorporates glass, wood and steel and will be twice the size of Terminal 2, which it’s replacing.

A tunnel will connect the Global Terminal to two concourses on the west side of the airport, intended to be double the size of existing ones and able to fit wide- bodied planes. Overall, the construction should add 22 gates to O’Hare with the airport’s capacity expected to increase by 25% to 100 million passengers by 2026.

Also included are two new hotels, one at Terminal 5 and a second to be built as a multiuse complex off Mannheim Road.

Read more here.

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The Illinois tollway board approved an amnesty program through the end of 2020 for unpaid tolls and violations.

Tollway customers with outstanding fines will get a break from excessive fees with new policies that include a temporary amnesty program approved by board directors Thursday.

Starting on July 1, any existing fees and fines related to unpaid tolls would be greatly reduced through the end of December.

Customers would be required to pay the actual toll amount plus a $3 fine per violation instead of hefty fees of $20 and up to $50 that have caused much criticism of the agency over the years. Payments can be made at illinoistollway.

The amnesty lasts for six months and includes drivers facing collection proceedings.

Read more here.

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To lure Sears into a Chicago suburb, officials crafted the largest tax break package ever awarded to a company in Illinois. It resulted in revenue shortfalls, disappearing jobs and unexpected tax burdens, a Daily Herald and ProPublica review showed.

On a hot Sunday afternoon in June 1989, two of the most powerful men in Illinois met to watch a ballgame at Wrigley Field — and, if all went well, to make a deal.

James R. Thompson, the state’s four-term Republican governor, and Edward Brennan, chairman of Sears, Roebuck & Co., the world’s largest retailer, had been deep in talks for months.

The stakes were high. Brennan was threatening to move Sears’ corporate headquarters, located in downtown Chicago in what was then the tallest skyscraper in the world, to another state. The move would rob Illinois of thousands of good-paying jobs, tens of millions in tax revenues and its reputation as a business-friendly state.

As the two men watched the Montreal Expos blank the Cubs 5-0, dropping the “Lovable Losers” out of first place, Thompson told Brennan he’d do whatever it took to keep Sears from leaving. The state had crafted a package of financial incentives that the legendary political deal maker believed was too good to pass up.

After the game ended, Thompson called up one of his closest associates, Jay Hedges, director of the state’s Department of Commerce and Community Affairs. In a recent interview, Hedges recalled Thompson delivering the news of his breakthrough.

“Well, Jay, Sears is staying in Illinois,” Thompson told him. “And they want to move to Hoffman Estates.”

Read much more here.

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Metra commuters traveling next week will have fewer trains to choose from as the railway scales back service in response to a COVID-19-related drop in passengers.

Metra officials announced they would switch to an alternate schedule effective Monday that provides about half the trains normally offered. It will still provide “adequate service for those who still need to travel,” officials said.

Metra will try to keep the regular number of cars on trains to allow for social distancing — people staying 6 feet apart.

To find out what the alternate schedules entail, go to metrarail.com.

Editorial note: Given Metra’s social distancing guidelines and the moronic behavior we’ve witnessed people displaying recently, readers are advised to drive whenever possible/practical beginning Monday.

 

 

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The “Rebuild Illinois” capital program “will make roads in every corner of the state safer. A variety of revenue sources will be solely dedicated to fixing our crumbling infrastructure, putting over half a million people to work and revitalizing communities across Illinois,” Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said.

What will cost more next year?

• Vehicle registrations jump by $50 for conventional cars and SUVs. Most truck registrations rise by $100.

• Electric vehicle registrations soar to $251 from $35.

• Gas taxes already went up by 19 cents a gallon this year to help pay for the capital program. In 2020, the cost per gallon will increase by the consumer price index effective July 1, 2020. That’s part of an annual adjustment tied to the CPI.

• Parking spaces on lots not owned by state or municipal governments will pay a tax ranging from 6% for hourly, daily or weekly users to 9% for monthly and yearly customers.

• Tax credits for trade-ins when buying a new car or SUV will be capped at $10,000. Pickup trucks, however, are exempt.

Read more here.

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