Kane County residents won’t have to worry about feeding the correct change into toll booths in Illinois — ever again.
The Illinois Tollway confirmed Thursday that cash toll collection will not be returning to the tollway system.
The decision comes nearly a year after cash collection was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and more than 15 years after the system was converted to open road tolling for I-PASS customers, with more than 92 percent of toll transactions taking place via I-PASS and E-ZPass in 2019.
Introducing I-PASS Assist
To ensure a smooth transition for all customers, the Illinois Tollway is also developing a significant expansion of the Illinois Tollway’s I-PASS Assist Program aimed at getting an I-PASS, and the lower toll rate, into the hands of those who need it most.
The program, anticipated to launch in May, will look to waive the deposit on transponders while adding an initial $20 in tolls to eligible applicants whose household income is below 250% of the federal poverty guidelines.
“It’s our goal to be as transparent as possible as we work to ensure the Illinois Tollway continues to lead the way in the travel experience we provide to our customers,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director José Alvarez. “With steps to ensure equity for those who use our system, this spring, customers will begin to see permanent changes at toll plazas systemwide — changes made to ensure customers are able to safely and confidently navigate our toll plazas that will all but put cash toll collection behind us.”
The tollway will continue to maintain a 14-day grace period — one of the longest in the nation — allowing customers to pay unpaid tolls without additional fees or fines prior to being mailed an invoice. And thanks to extensive tolling reforms last year, the initial notice for unpaid tolls no longer includes a $20 violation for each missed toll, rather a $3 fee for each unpaid toll on passenger vehicles.
Moving forward, Illinois Tollway drivers will continue to have the option to pay tolls with I-PASS, E-ZPass or pay online with the Ttollway’s Pay By Plate service. Using Pay By Plate, customers simply enter their license plate, payment method and dates of travel, and the Pay By Plate system takes care of the rest.
Over the past several years, the tollway’s on road and back office systems have been bolstered by heavy investments into the tollway’s technology to not only support the longstanding open road tolling environment, but also make this final pivot to cashless tolling possible.
In-Person Service Centers To Reopen
The Illinois Tollway also announced that it is developing a plan to reopen in-person customer service centers and increase call center capacity as the region has returned to Phase 4 of the COVID-19 pandemic mitigation efforts. In addition, all toll services personnel, including money truck drivers, toll cash audit services and toll collectors, have been presented with opportunities to stay with the agency.
In March 2020, the Illinois Tollway halted cash toll collection in an effort to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, protecting its customers and employees from exposure points to the rapidly-spreading virus. At that time, engineers and planners worked around the clock to ensure toll plazas, lanes and exit ramps were clearly marked and safe for the motoring public.
Since then, the Illinois Tollway has taken extensive measures to better serve customers who previously relied on cash payments, including measures to provide relief during the pandemic. The Tollway provided all customers with three months of .01 cent fees for invoiced tolls during the initial three months (March 9 to May 25, 2020) of the stay-at-home order.
First introduced in 1993, I-PASS is the preferred method for toll payments on the Illinois Tollway, which leads the industry nationally in transponder adoption rates. In 2019, more than 92 percent of toll transactions took place via I-PASS and E-ZPass, and that number increased during the pandemic due to a reduction in infrequent travelers.
Over the last decade, a steady increase in cashless tolling across the country has changed the industry, with more facilities adopting cashless tolling. As part of a national interoperability effort, Illinois Tollway customers are able to use their I-PASS transponders to pay tolls in any state or toll facility that accepts E-ZPass.
About the Illinois Tollway
The Illinois Tollway is a user-fee system that receives no state or federal funds for maintenance and operations.
The agency maintains and operates 294 miles of roadways in 12 counties in Northern Illinois, including the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88), the Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355), the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90), the Tri-State Tollway (I-94/I-294/I-80) and the Illinois Route 390 Tollway.