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Tolling Points

New County Toll Won't Disappear Without Trust Fund in Place

Bill Cramer

Well, here’s a great example of long-term thinking.

When the Kane County Division of Transportation in suburban Illinois proposed a new crossing over the Fox River, it knew two things: that tolls would be the only realistic way to fund the project, and that state laws require those tolls to be phased out after the project had repaid its $36.5-million bond.

But fortunately, the statute does not mandate county authorities to leave their shiny, new infrastructure unfunded and doomed to decline, with no money to pay for its upkeep and maintenance.

Instead, KDOT’s 95-cent toll will cover the facility’s long-term needs as well as its initial construction costs, Deputy Director Tom Rickert said last month.

“There is no firm date for when the tolls will go away,” the Daily Herald reports. “Rickert said sunsetting the toll will depend on how fast the county can repay the bonds and build up a trust fund that will cover future maintenance for the remaining life of the bridge. The trust fund, Rickert said, should contain at least as much money as the cost of the bridge itself.”

The outside estimate for retiring the tolls: 35 years. Within 25 to 30 years, projections show the bridge serving 14,000 daily users and generating $6 million per year in revenue.

Long-term thinking, indeed.

"It's not an easy thing to apply a user fee to the structure, but it wouldn't be possible to have this project without it," said County Board Chair Chris Lauzen. "The only way Kane County could afford this is having a user fee that would produce that $30 million. The county doesn't have it."

Compared to a fee collected strictly from county ratepayers, a toll is also a better reflection of the bridge’s geography and projected use. "The reason the toll concept evolved is because this is walking distance from the county line, and this bridge will be used by people from various counties," explained transportation committee chair Drew Frasz. "It's a regional project."




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