NEWS

Editorial: Car pool lanes on tollway look like a detour for gov

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

In theory, having car pool lanes in the most congested parts of the Illinois Tollway system is a good idea. In practice, this idea has enough holes to drive a semi through.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the man who has done nothing to fix Illinois’ crumbling roads since he took office six years ago, announced Wednesday a $400 million plan to allow vehicles with two or more occupants to use designated express lanes.

The express lanes, dubbed “green lanes,” would exist on 80 miles of the tollway system, none of them close to the Rockford area. The lanes would be in the high-traffic areas around Chicago so you would need to be aware of them when you traveled to and around the city.

If you drive alone, you could still use a green lane, but you would be charged an extra toll. We don’t know how much that would be yet. As long as you have another person in your vehicle — blowup dolls don’t count — you would pay the current toll.

The goals of the governor’s plan are admirable: reduce congestion, cut emissions and save fossil fuels.

However, the green lanes would be created by striping existing lanes. In other states that have used High Occupancy Vehicle lanes — HOV on the signs — motorists have resented losing a lane. There are still plenty of traffic tie-ups, but the carpoolers get to whiz by the gridlock without feeling a bit guilty.

It’s unclear how you would be able to charge solo motorists a higher toll or how the electronic toll chargers could tell the difference between a single motorist and a car full of people.

If the plan is successful, officials estimate there will be fewer cars on the road, which is a good thing. But to make up the revenue lost from fewer users, the governor’s plan would increase the tolls truckers pay starting in 2015. That’s a bad thing.

Illinois doesn’t need to find another way to keep business from rolling through the state. The extra tolls truckers pay would eventually trickle down to higher costs for consumers.

The timing of the announcement makes us wonder whether the governor was trying to divert attention from other issues. Also on Wednesday, a judge renewed an order stopping the governor from expanding health care. The judge ruled earlier this year that the governor could not expand health care without the Legislature’s approval. He went ahead with his plan anyway.

A dark cloud hanging over the governor is the cooperation with federal investigators by friend and fundraiser Tony Rezko, who was found guilty of fraud, attempted bribery and money laundering in June. Most observers think Rezko will implicate the governor in wrongdoing in a deal to get a reduced sentence.

And there are still issues such as an Illinois budget that is out of whack, cuts that may or may not have been restored, social service agencies in need, state parks about to be closed and more.

With all that going on, you can’t blame the guy for wanting to drive away as quickly as possible.

Remember, green lanes would start, and his term would end, in 2010.

Rockford Register Star