Chicago inching closer to freeway congestion charges?

Chicago ranks number three on the list of cities with the worst traffic. Following a study by the Municipal Planning Council and the Illinois Tollway, one suggested way to remedy the issue is the introduction of congestion pricing on Chicago-area toll roads. This isn't the flat-fee congestion charge from London, but rather the supply-and-demand based flexible pricing already adopted on toll roads in California and Minneapolis: at peak times, the toll goes up, during off-hours the toll drops.

Portions of three highways have been mentioned as good candidates: the Stevenson Expressway, Jane Adams Tollway, and the Kennedy Expressway. The city is a long way from enacting the idea but it has been debating it for years, and in addition to the quality-of-life and pollution-level benefits, the city has its eye on the more than $23 million in aid that increased tolls could provide to Chicago's financial situation.

Critics of the idea contend that such " Lexus lanes" will only be a boon for the rich. The authorities respond that surveys have showed widespread approval in all of the states where variable pricing has been put in place. We don't know how much that would rely on the study's claim that tollway drivers would "be assured of free-flowing traffic, even in rush hour," which is a bold claim to make. Yet with 22 states said to be studying the same idea, it appears as though the sheer momentum could eventually overcome opposition.

[Source: Chicago Tribune | Image: Getty]

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