What All-Electronic Tolling Means for Illinois Drivers

If you’ve done much driving in the past year, you may have noticed a slight difference at the toll booth. Last year, as a precaution during the pandemic, Illinois switched to all electronic tolling. While many drivers hunkered down at home, all-electronic tolling was implemented to protect workers and consumers. Turns out cashless tolling is here to stay.

The switch to all-electronic tolling means that vehicles can pass through toll plazas in Illinois without stopping. But it may add an extra layer of confusion for less frequent drivers who view a toll as something you chuck a handful of change in as you pass by. For years, in-person payment was always an option. Whether by cash, credit, or debit card, there was someone in a booth to take your payment. This pre-Covid system was largely dismantled overnight.

As more drivers head back out on the road, here is what they need to know should they end up on one of the state’s toll roads.

Where Are Illinois Toll Roads?

Illinois is home to numerous toll roads. You might end up on one if you’re driving to the airport (Elgin-O’Hare Tollway), heading to Kansas (Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway/Chicago–Kansas City Expressway), or driving to one of the many places the Tri-State Tollway (I-80/I-94/I-294) will take you. The Illinois Tollway relies entirely on a driver-funded fee system to maintain and operate 294 miles of roadways in 12 counties in Northern Illinois.

As for those large plastic buckets that used to catch your change, they have largely gone by the wayside since the introduction of I-PASS lanes.

What Is All Electronic Payment and How Is It Different from I-PASS?

There are still several ways to pay your toll, and not all drivers will see a change in their day-to-day travel. The difference is that drivers who haven’t created an online account are being asked to do what they weren’t supposed to do before – drive through and pay later. If you bypass an unmanned toll booth today, a camera will most likely take your license plate information and send you a bill later.

Toll collection is currently handled via I-PASS, E-ZPass, and through the tollway’s online payment portal. (I-PASS and E-ZPass customers weren’t impacted by the recent changes.) Here are the options:

  1. I-PASS – Commuters and other frequent drivers generally use I-PASS to pay tolls in Illinois and other states that accept E-ZPass. This requires paying for tolls in advance, not unlike the Ventra system used for public transportation.You’ll need a transponder (available at Jewel-Osco stores), which can be shared between cars and motorcycles registered to the same I-PASS account. It may require a $10 deposit, but cash-strapped families can bypass the deposit and save in other ways using I-PASS Assist.
  2. E-ZPass – I-PASS falls under the larger E-ZPass umbrella, which is used on the Indiana Toll Road and in 17 other states.For either one, you’ll need a transponder in your vehicle. It can be activated online.
  3. Pay By Plate – Located on the I-PASS payment platform, Pay By Plate offers drivers who don’t use I-PASS or E-ZPass a range of payment choices. This may be preferable for less frequent drivers who prefer not to have an online account. However, they generally end up paying twice as much for tolls.
  4. Online Payment Portal – Drivers and other folks wanting to learn more about their options can visit illinoistollway.com. This is also where you go to calculate any missed tolls. If so, you have seven days to pay online. After that point, you can use the “search by plate” feature to make your payment.

Note to those trying to save their dollars: I-PASS and E-ZPass members pay 50% less on tolls, making the pre-payment system the most cost-effective way to pay tolls.

Get All Your Transportation Needs Met at CCEA

Before you head out the door, though, be sure you’re operating your vehicle within the law. If your license and registration aren’t up to date, you could face a much bigger fine than if you fail to pay a toll.

Over 350 Community Currency Exchanges (CCEA) throughout Illinois are just as helpful at meeting your auto licensing and public transportation payment needs as they are at handing your personal finance needs. Here’s what we provide:

Illinois toll booths may no longer take your coins, but CCEA is happy to turn your dollars into change for parking meters and laundromat visits. We even supply local companies with cash for their registers on the spot. Contact us online or stop by your nearest location to learn more.

What All-Electronic Tolling Means for Illinois Drivers

With over 350 locations, many open nights, weekends, and holidays (and several stores with 24/7 availability), you can rest easy knowing your financial needs can be taken care of when you need them most. We’re in the heart of every community. Don’t believe us? See for yourself.