I don’t need to search very hard to find corruption in the great state of Illinois. Four recent governors went to prison, Illinois is the third most corrupt state in the United States, and Chicago is the most corrupt big city.
I live in Minnesota – why do I care about Illinois corruption? Because last week, I became another in a long list of victims of a shakedown scheme reminiscent of small towns, hidden speed limit signs, and speed traps. Except mine was on the Illinois Tollway and it had a high-tech twist.
Let’s call this what it really is – legal extortion.
On Dec. 2, and Dec. 3, 2018, I drove through the Illinois Tollway system for work. Dates and times are duly noted on the Notice of Toll Violation form. I remember these toll booths. I rolled up to the first one, shortly after 11 P.M., reached out to pay, and – nobody was there. There were no people, no money machines, no credit card machines, no bins in which to throw coins, not one visible means to pay my toll.
Apparently, the great State of Illinois couldn’t afford a system to collect money at the toll booth. But it could afford technology to take a picture of my license plate, record the date and time, contact the state where I live, find my address and vehicle VIN, and send me a violation notice two and one half months later. This happened at four toll booths; one at 4:40 P.M. the next day during a Chicago rush hour. How can nobody be on duty at a busy toll booth in the middle of a Chicago rush hour?
And now, because the great State of Illinois provided no means to pay my $6.60 in tolls at the toll booths, my violation notice says I owe $86.60.
The violation notice also offers helpful suggestions for the future. If I encounter another toll booth with no way to accept payment, the Illinois Tollway Authority provides a website where I can retrace my trips and pay my tolls online. But only if I do it within seven days of my trip. Otherwise, the fine is $20 per violation, plus the toll.
I can also buy a device called an IPass; it’s an RFID tag reader I can attach to my car, and then every time I go through a toll booth, automation can take money out of an account I prepay.
I called the toll-free number for the Illinois Tollway Authority. The great State of Illinois is mailing me some forms — via US Mail, no PDFs — for me to plead my case. My hearing date is May 21, 2019, where I can appear in person to answer for my alleged crimes.
I doubt I’ll have a legal leg to stand on, but I might take some time off work and travel the four hundred miles to the hearing anyway, just on principle. Note to self – avoid toll roads on the trip.
What a racket. Al Capone might be laughing in his grave.
Maybe the next time I travel on the Illinois Tollway, I’ll find different license plates. I wonder what the Illinois Governor’s plates look like.