Anyone using the Illinois Tollway system without paying on a regular basis might soon find themselves in court.
The Illinois Tollway announced last week that it's going after chronic violators with lawsuits. In fact, the first of those suits already has been filed, according to a press release from the agency.
“We are sending a clear and strong message to these chronic violators: ‘Your time is up,’ ” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur. “Anything less would be unfair to the 98 percent of tollway customers who pay their tolls on time.”
The reason why tollway officials are playing hardball is simple: The total owed to in unpaid tolls and initial fines is $300 million. There are an estimated 550,000 violations associated with unique license plates as of July, and there are 1.2 million violation notices outstanding.
Up to this point, the agency has sent these violators at least five notices, called them at least four times and offered them multiple opportunities to enter a settlement agreement with the option to use a payment plan to settle the debt, the press release states. Overall, the entire process takes nine months to more than two years from the time a violator receives a first violation notice from the Illinois Tollway to the point at which a judgment is filed in court.
“We’ve continued to pursue these chronic violators through our own processes and by working with collection agencies, but now we have no other choice but to pursue them in court,” Lafleur said.
In addition, the agency will increase coordination with the Illinois State Police District 15, which patrols all 286 miles of the tollway system, to identify vehicles with suspended license plates. Violators of this offense could face fines of up to $2,000.
“This zero-tolerance policy is the only option we have left to make sure that these chronic violators end up paying their fair share,” said Illinois Tollway Board Chairman Paula Wolff. “Tolls are a significant source of revenue for maintaining and improving our region’s transportation system and we have a responsibility to try to collect all of it.”
The Illinois Tollway is a user-funded system that receives no state or federal funding for maintenance and operations. More than 1.4 million vehicles travel the Illinois Tollway daily.
Violators should contact the phone number listed on their collection agency notices for more information about how to resolve their debt. To view a detailed timeline that includes typical milestones in the collections process for violators who do not pay their violation notices on time, or for more information, visit the Tollway's website.
What do you think of the Illinois Tollway's plan to recover lost revenue and punish lawbreakers? Tell us in the comments.