Groundhog Day at the Illinois Tollway

Groundhog Day at the Illinois Tollway 4.00/5 (80.00%) 2 votes

By Ray Hanania

Like the Movie Groundhog Day, Donna Nagel of Alsip is going through same nightmare, but her five year hassle with the Illinois Tollway is taking its toll

Like the Movie Groundhog Day, Donna Nagel of Alsip is going through same nightmare, but her five year hassle with the Illinois Tollway is taking its toll

Like the Movie Groundhog Day, Donna Nagel of Alsip is going through same nightmare, but her five year hassle with the Illinois Tollway is taking its toll

Have you ever seen the 1993 Harold Ramis movie “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, and Chris Elliott?

It’s the story of a weatherman who keeps living the same day over and over again until he is forced to re-examine his life and become a better person.

Well, Donna Nagel of Alsip is going through something similar. Instead of re-examining her life, though, I’m thinking Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner and the State of Illinois should re-examine the Illinois Tollway Authority.

Nagel loves her license plates. She got them 40 years ago when she was 17 years old. It isn’t a vanity plate, just her initials and a number, and that is cool.

But what’s not cool is that for the past five years, Nagel has been the victim of a problem caused by the Illinois Tollway, which is making the same mistake over and over again without fixing it.

Since 2009, Nagel has received citations claiming she failed to pay her tolls at Illinois tollbooths. It’s not just a couple of tolls. It’s hundreds of tolls and the fines are in the thousands of dollars.

Each time you skip a $1.50 or $1.80 toll, you are fined $20, plus the missed toll. If you fail to pay the fine, they slam you with another $50.

Unfortunately, the tolls Nagel is allegedly missing belong to another driver whose vehicle license plate is almost identical, except for one letter:

“My license plate starts with a D and the license plate in the pictures driving through the tollbooths without paying the tolls starts with an O. The rest of the plate letters and numbers are the same,” Nagel says with an enthusiasm that has broken through years of frustration.

Donna drives a Gold Ford. The scofflaw drives a Blueish-Green Saturn Vue.

One of the many letters Donna Nagel has received from the Illinois Tollway threatening her for toll violations she never committed.

One of the many letters Donna Nagel has received from the Illinois Tollway threatening her for toll violations she never committed.

“Apparently, they just look at the license plates,” Nagel shrugs.

And not very well either.

Each time Nagel gets a new Tollway citation, she goes through a familiar routine, calling the state and pointing out the license plate is wrong.

The state employees she speaks with – different each time she calls – promise to correct the error. Within a few weeks, she gets an apology letter from the Tollway.

But the other driver continues to skip through more tolls without paying and racking up more fines, and Nagel gets another threatening letter and demanding for payment.

“I just received a letter saying I owe $640 for toll violations in September,” Nagel said. The bill represents 32 separate toll violations. Last month the bill was $1,400 for 70 toll violations.

“I call the state every month to clear my account and they can’t seem to fix the problem. They’re wrong. I’m right. What’s happening to the person who owes the money?”

That’s the scary part. Someone keeps driving through the tollbooths without paying, and no one seems to care. Not just a few times but hundreds of times. Who is holding the scofflaw accountable?

Instead of harassing Donna Nagel dozens of times, the Tollway should crack down on the real scofflaw. I haven’t even calculated the tax dollars being wasted on this Tollway screw-up.

This isn’t just a Groundhog Day scenario for Donna Nagel, it’s a nightmare for Illinois taxpayers. If the Tollway can’t handle something this simple, maybe it needs to be replaced.

One of the many letters Donna Nagel has received from the Illinois Tollway threatening her for toll violations she never committed.

One of the many letters Donna Nagel has received from the Illinois Tollway threatening her for toll violations she never committed.

Sample list of tolls the Illinois Tollway mistakenly said Donna Nagel missed

Sample list of tolls the Illinois Tollway mistakenly said Donna Nagel missed

(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and columnist. Reach him at [email protected])

Ray Hanania’s columns run in the Regional News, the Palos Reporter, the Southwest News-Herald, and the Des Plaines Valley News along with the Illinois News Network.

Ray Hanania

Blogger, Columnist at Illinois News Network Online
Ray Hanania is senior blogger for the Illinois News Network online news site. He is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (From Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley).

In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. He hosted a live weekend Radio Show on WLS AM radio from 1980 through 1991, and also on WBBM FM, WLUP FM and shows on WSBC AM in Chicago and WNZK AM in Detroit.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. He currently is syndicated through Creators Syndicate and his column is feature every Sunday in the Saudi Gazette in Saudi Arabia. He has written for the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His Chicagoland political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News on several Chicagoland blogs including the OrlandParker.com and SuburbanChicagoland.com.

Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

His personal website is www.TheMediaOasis.com. Email him at: [email protected]