50 yards will cost you $1.50

Officials at the local level considering charging a toll on Longmeadow Parkway Bridge in Kane County, Ill.

Blog Entry January 28, 2013

Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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There is a bridge practically in my backyard that might carry a charge to cross it, and the length is, well, about the size of my backyard. Officials in Kane County (Ill.) are debating whether or not to assess a toll to use the Longmeadow Parkway Bridge, which spans the Fox River for about 50 yards.

 

When I first heard such a move might be in play, I immediately thought about the time when Knights walked the face of the Earth. I could see somebody putting up a bridge made of timber or stone over a creek and charging noblemen and peasants a wood chuck or two for access to the other side. The Longmeadow Parkway Bridge is still in the design phase, but if constructed would be surrounded by several neighboring bridges that are free to cross, including the recently completed Red Gate Road Bridge.

 

This idea of a toll is not the work of the state or the Illinois Tollway. This is coming straight from the local level. I am assuming all money gathered from Longmeadow would be used for projects at the city and/or county level. I've been bracing for a life full of road charges for some time, but thought most would be on the interstate, and perhaps state routes. Never did it enter my mind that those at the county level would demand a handout.

 

Believe it or not, village boards in Kane County have already approved the move, but Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen is proposing to let the voters decide whether or not to toll Longmeadow. If that is the case, there is no way the locals are going to accept the price. Even if they did, I can't imagine somebody choosing to absord the charge when there are several other free options offering the same type of ride over the Fox River.

 

Why officials are even toying with the idea of tolling this trek is beyond me, and it tarnishes a few images here. Politicians in the state of Illinois will not even touch the idea of raising the state gas tax a few cents, but lawmakers at the local level think there is nothing wrong with charging $1.50 per crossing during rush hour. If this does not sit well with me, it certainly does not sit well with others in my neighborhood. Just how much are local officials going to gouge their own? It also raises several questions, like if money is suddenly an issue how was the Red Gate Road Bridge paid for then? Bridges that are free to cross have been popping up all over the Chicagoland area, and suddenly approving a toll on one of them covers local officials in a thick coat of greed. I mean, seriously, how much money is this span going to generate if motorists seek out the other alternatives? First there was the Bridge to Nowhere, and this could be called the Bridge Carrying Nothing.

 

The damage is already done here. People are already appalled, and my prediction is there is going to be enough backlash that will prevent any village board member from approving another short-span toll for some time to come. Charge motorists to use the interstate, and even some state routes, but keep these fees off local roads--and far away from my own backyard.

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