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Bill filed to turn part of I-80 into tollroad to repair bridges

The Illinois State Capitol

SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) — Commuters who use a portion Interstate 80 could soon be paying tolls for the repair and expansion of the busy highway.

Legislation filed in the Illinois House of Representatives would give a portion of I-80 between the 294 interchange and Route 47 in Morris to the state’s tollway authority.

P.S. Sriraj, director of the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said the transfer would expedite the process of repairing some of the most dilapidated bridges in the state in comparison to funding construction through a capital bill that would need to address other state projects as well.

“There are many different prioritizations that would need to happen to improve your right-of-way that you’re concerned about, in this case, I-80,” he said. “The tollway would be able to use their resources that can be put directly into that infrastructure.”

He says the economic effects of closing the bridge for emergency repairs would be significant.

“It could have significant impact on the economy of the region since it’s one of the main thoroughfares that gets used not just by the traveling public, but also a significant portion of the freight industry in the form of trucks,” he said.

Acting Illinois Department of Transportation director Omer Osman wrote an editorial defending the integrity of the I-80 bridge over the Des Plaines River that had been the subject of a union-led campaign about its safety.

“These particular bridges in Joliet undergo a rigorous inspection schedule that goes above and beyond federal requirements,” he said. “The results, which are shared online with the public and reviewed for concurrence by the Federal Highway Administration, show that these are older bridges requiring a greater level of monitoring and maintenance.”

One potential roadblock to the tollway, Sriraj said, would be a statutorily-required alternative route for lower-income residents to use.

“You have to look at the equity impact of this move,” he said. “That needs to be kept in mind.”

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