Illinois/Indiana toll conflict resolved

Both states agree to reciprocate discounts, no strings attached

June 15, 2007

The “transponder war” between Illinois and Indiana has come to a peaceful resolution, with both states agreeing to reciprocate toll discounts, the Chicago Tribune reported today. Members of the Indiana Toll Road Oversight Board voted to rescind a plan to limit electronic toll collection discounts to Indiana iZoom users, and directed Indiana Toll Road Operator ITR Concessions Co. to make the discount available to passenger vehicle drivers, regardless of type of transponder or state of residency.

"Thousands of northwest Indiana residents benefit from electronic toll discounts on Illinois toll roads," Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels said in a statement. "It is right and fair that we reciprocate with a gesture of friendliness and neighborliness."

The Indiana Toll Road Oversight Board agreed with Daniels on Thursday, ending the conflict and offering a discount “in the spirit of cooperation, fairness and interoperability,” according to the Tribune.

“The Illinois Tollway has never drawn a line between its residents and drivers who live in Indiana and travel in Illinois for daily commutes or leisure trips,” Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich said. “Soon Indiana residents with iZoom will enjoy the same great benefits that I-PASS has delivered to Illinois-- reduced tolls and more time to spend with family or friends instead of sitting in traffic.”

Illinois State Toll Highway Authority officials balked when they learned in April that only Indiana residents would receive the 40% electronic tolling discount on the Indiana Toll Road when i-Zoom, Indiana’s electronic tolling system, takes effect this fall, according to the Tribune. Calling this unfair, since Indiana drivers with I-PASS transponders receive the same 50% discount as Illinois drivers, tollway officials threatened to end the discount for the approximately 90,000 Indiana motorists with I-PASS accounts if Indiana didn’t reciprocate, the paper reported. If such a threat had been carried out, the tollway estimated that loss of the discount would have cost Indiana drivers about $9 million a year, the paper said.

Indiana officials proposed a compromise last month offering Illinois I-PASS users the discount if they signed up on a website, the Tribune reported. Tollway officials rejected the compromise, and said that I-PASS users should not have to “jump through hoops,” according to the paper.

Illinois tollway officials also charged that Indiana’s position violated the principles of the E-ZPass Interagency Group, a multistate consortium of toll authorities, the Tribune said. The group provides reciprocity so travelers won’t have to struggle with managing multiple transponders and accounts when traveling on toll roads and bridges in different states.

“Over the past few months we have stood by our belief that it makes no sense to force stateline drivers to purchase two different transponders in order to benefit from the convenience of electronic toll collection and a discounted toll rate for interstate travel,” McPartlin said. “We are pleased Indiana has reconsidered their position and decided to offer our I-PASS users the same level of customer service with no strings attached.”

According to Matt Pierce, a spokesman for ITR Concession Co., the private firm with a 75-year lease to operate the Indiana Toll Road, electronic tolling in Indiana should be available starting June 25, the Tribune reported, although it won’t be fully implemented along all of the road’s 157 miles until November. Drivers with either transponders or cash will pay the same rate, about 3.2 cents per mile, Pierce said, until the electronic tolling is fully implemented and cash tolls increase, according to the paper. i-Zoom transponders will be available beginning on Friday, Pierce added.