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Tollway budget includes $771 million for Addams, Elgin-O'Hare work

Published: Friday, Oct. 26, 2012 9:25 a.m. CDT

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(MCT) — The Illinois Tollway will spend $771 million next year as it starts rebuilding and widening the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway and the Elgin-O'Hare bypass project, according to the agency's proposed budget.

Also planned are completion of the new interchange on the Addams (Interstate 90) at Illinois Highway 47 near Huntley and work on the new connection between the Tri-State Tollway (I-294) and I-57 near Markham.

All told, the tollway plans to spend $922 million for construction and expansion of the system, officials said Thursday. That's double the agency's spending this year.

"The vast majority of this … spending will go to capital improvements largely on the tollway system itself or technology improvements that will support better customer service," Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said.

To help pay for the projects, the tollway anticipates raking in $977 million from tolls in 2013 — thanks to the 87.5 percent increase that went into effect Jan. 1. No new tolls are expected, Lafleur said.

The tollway plans to issue as much as $1 billion in bonds next year to pay for the new projects and future capital needs, officials said.

That's in addition to its $3.91 billion in outstanding debt as of Jan. 1, 2013.

All that spending is part of the tollway's nearly $12 billion public works program to expand and improve the 296-mile system. The program, known as Move Illinois, is entering the second of 15 years.

As far as agency operations are concerned, officials say costs will increase 4 percent.

"In this budget, we really tried to prioritize holding the line on any operating costs, (but) there are some things that are out of our control," Lafleur said, referring to pension and retirement contributions.

The agency's employee head count is expected to be 1,595, down three from this year.

The addition of 16 new positions in engineering and finance for Move Illinois will be offset by reductions in toll operations, officials said.

The 2013 budget includes savings of more than $5 million, officials said.

One way the tollway will save money, Lafleur said, is by keeping the lenses clean on the I-PASS cameras that take photos of vehicle license plates at toll plazas.

Tollway staff devised an automated system to clean the lenses of dirt and road salt, saving $1 million in recovered lost tolls.

"It's a pretty ingenious little invention," Lafleur said.

The Tollway Board is scheduled to give final approval to the budget at its Dec. 13 meeting.

Meanwhile, officials said they are encouraging the public to review and comment on the document. A budget presentation is posted at illinoistollway.com.

The tollway also scheduled hearings at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, at tollway headquarters, 2700 Ogden Ave., Downers Grove; and from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, at the O'Hare oasis on the Tri-State Tollway.

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