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Our view: Pay fair share of tolls

We don’t like paying increasingly higher tolls any more than the next motorist.

But we begrudgingly support the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority’s plan to go after frequent toll violators.

It’s not fair to motorists who follow the rules and pay their fair share of tolls that many others are not.

The tollway said last week that it has begun filing lawsuits against motorists who repeatedly have used the tollway system without paying tolls. The authority will try to reach out to violators before taking them to court. It says that it sends a notice in the mail once three violations have occurred. Violators owe the toll plus $20 a violation. If violators do not respond, two more notices are sent out with a warning of an additional $50 fine before collection notices begin.

Once collection efforts are exhausted, a lawsuit will be filed.

The toll authority says it is owed $300 million in unpaid tolls and fines on 1.2 million outstanding violation notices. As of July, about 550,000 unique license plates had at least one violation, with 44,000 of those in McHenry County.

The fact is, our interstate system needs constant maintenance. Millions of vehicles drive across toll system roadways each month, causing damage. The state’s finances are in such disarray that there’s no money in general or capital funds to maintain these roads.

So the user-pays model makes the most sense to keep the tollway roads safe. But about 2 percent of users – motorists – have not been paying.

We can’t have motorists decide for themselves whether they will pay their share or not. If the tollway didn’t go after frequent violators, eventually word could get around and more motorists would ignore the system. Then there wouldn’t be enough money to maintain the toll roads.

Tolls nearly doubled this year to fund a $12 billion construction program, We’d eventually like to see the tolls come back down to 2011 levels, though we won’t hold our breath.

In the meantime, everyone who uses the tollway should pay their fair share.

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