Chicago/ Transportation & Infrastructure
AI Assisted Icon
Published on June 21, 2024
Chicago Contractor Sues for $3 Million, Chicago Skyway Toll Bridge Overcharges on Skyway TollsSource: Ken Lund from Reno, Nevada, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In a recent development that has created waves across Chicago, a lawsuit has been filed by Wilmette contractor, Rocky Rowe, who believes he, along with countless others, have been erroneously overcharged while using the Chicago Skyway. Rowe, who has traversed this stretch for the past two decades, is now the centerpiece in a class-action lawsuit demanding $3 million in refunds for what he claims are excessive toll fees imposed on travelers. According to a report by NBC Chicago, the lawsuit alleges that overcharges have piled up to an estimated $3 million over a five-year span ending in March. Rowe pointed out that, while individual overcharges might seem inconsequential, they amount to a significant sum when considering the volume of Skyway users.

"It's nickels and dimes to some people. But if I was overcharged a couple hundred bucks over the course of the last two years, multiply that out by how many millions of people are using that Skyway. It's significant," Rowe told NBC Chicago. The lawsuit suggests that toll rates have been incremented improperly, accusing the company operating the Chicago Skyway of charging users from 10 cents to $1.20 extra per trip, depending upon the size of the vehicle.

Rowe's frustration echoes a broader sentiment toward the Chicago Skyway's privatization deal, which was initially struck in a 99-year, $1.8 billion agreement. The Skyway, sold in 2022 for the second time in just seven years, saw two-thirds of its stake getting transferred from Canadian pension plans to Atlas Arteria Ltd., an Australian toll road company, a transaction that gave the city $25 million in fees. Despite the lawsuit not yet being served to Skyway Concession LLC, they are named defendants alongside Atlas Arteria, the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, and Calumet Concession Partners Inc., as reported by ABC 7 Chicago.

The inception of the lawsuit was partly fueled by the diligence of attorney Ken Goldstein of Krislov & Associates, who delved into the Skyway tolls after Rowe vocalized his complaints. The team found discrepancies in the application of the gross domestic product (GDP) figures used to dictate the rate increases—a revelation that came about despite the ailing health of the firm's late founder, Clint Krislov, who had long challenged the city's privatization efforts. "When they announced the (latest) increase last November, Clint was very sick," Goldstein told ABC 7 Chicago, revealing the use of a GDP figure not listed in the government's schedule.

Amidst the legal action, Rowe maintains a pragmatic stance, admitting skepticism about receiving a refund but holding onto hope that the lawsuit will at least lead to better oversight of future toll rate increases, which, under current agreements, do not require city approval. "I have a son who's in college in Michigan. He's a college athlete, so we do a lot of back-and-forth to go to his games. We have family in Michigan. We're on that corridor pretty regularly. I'll be on it Saturday morning," Rowe shared with ABC 7 Chicago. For many like Rowe, who find themselves routinely traversing the Chicago Skyway, the outcome of the lawsuit may be as much about principle as it is about refunds.

Chicago-Transportation & Infrastructure