Avoiding the overpriced toll roads into Chicago from Iowa – how I avoided I-88

I used to drive from Iowa to Chicago on Interstate 88 through Illinois but not any more. The tolls (especially for drivers paying cash vs. using ipass) have gotten way too high, reaching $10.20 this year. (I used a handy online toll calculator, http://www.illinoistollway.com/tolls-and-i-pass/toll-information/trip-calculator, to confirm that it would have cost me $10.20 to use I-88 between western Illinois and Chicago.)

On the way to Chicago, I drove Interstate 80 which has no tolls (in Illinois at least) although it does have a lot of road construction. But on the way back to Iowa, I had to stop off at my sister’s in Oak Park – which is closer to I-88. So the trick was: how to get to I-80 without adding too much time to my trip or paying too many tolls en route. I’m not sure I succeeded ultimately but here’s what I did: I took I-88 a few miles (paying $1.50 for the privilege) then took 355  for a few miles, which also turned out to be a toll road so I shelled out another $1.90. Then I took 355 to Interstate 55 and then to Interstate 80. Ultimately, I did save money on tolls (about $6.80)  but I  lengthened my trip slightly (by about 20 minutes, I think) and ultimately paid a little more for gas.

This is good information to have since the tolls will continue to rise in coming years, according to recent news reports, showing that they rose by 40 percent on Jan. 1, 2012 and are scheduled to rise by 10 percent each year in 2013 and 2014. argh.

I have a built-in defensive mechanism that allows me to promptly forget how much I pay for things, so I don’t wig out about all the expenses I face. Still I knew for a fact that the tolls had risen because before I didn’t really notice them but now I do, i.e. it’s the difference between repeatedly throwing a couple of quarters and dimes into a toll booth collection net and handing over a couple of bucks each time.



Filed under chicago

5 responses to “Avoiding the overpriced toll roads into Chicago from Iowa – how I avoided I-88

  1. Verna

    Hi Betsy!
    This is the only place that answered my question about whether I-80 from Iowa thru Illinois had tolls to pay, other than right around Chicago. We’re retired and we travel a lot, and are on a tight budget, so we avoid tolls whenever possible. Thank you for your information.

    • betsyrubiner

      You are welcome. There are no tolls on I-80 in Iowa but last I traveled I-88 in Illinois there were. We take I-80 instead in Illinois. Happy trails!

  2. Ashok

    Hi Betsy,

    We are from Omaha NE and Planning to visit Chicago in another two weeks by drive. When i check the routes I have 2 option after Davenport IA.
    OPTION 1 is I-80 then I- 88 & OPTION 2 is I-80 then I-55. Our destination will be Navy Pier in Chicago. I came to know that there are tolls in OPTION 1.

    So If tolls doesnt matter which route you should prefer? Considering TRAFFIC, ROADS CONDITION, TRAVELLING DURATION etc.

    • betsyrubiner

      there isn’t much difference except with the tolls so I’d go with option 2. (Which we will be driving later today back to Iowa.) Safe travels.

      • betsyrubiner

        There is construction on interstate 55 right when you get to the city near McCormick Place (convention center) so when heading north into the city, try to exit 55 before then. Heading south we took lake shore drive (today) to Jackson and then congress to 290 and then 90-94 toward Indiana which takes you back to 55 south (skirting the construction)…

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