How Does an Illinois I-Pass Work?

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Understanding the I-Pass

According to the Illinois Tollway, 80 percent of the tolls paid daily are electronic. This means that the majority of drivers use the Illinois I-Pass instead of paying the cash toll. Such intense use has made the I-Pass not only popular with Illinois residents but a must-have for commuters from Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin. The little white box can be seen on the dashboard of cars all along highways 294, 80 and 94 where they intersect Illinois. Few of these drivers, however, know how it works.

Starting an Account

To begin using the I-Pass, the driver must purchase a transponder from one of the I-Pass partners, a customer service center or an Illinois Tollway office. Next, the driver must call a toll-free number to activate the transponder and provide personal information including address, phone license and debit/credit card numbers. Information about the vehicle is needed as well, including the year, make, model, color, license plate number and type of plate on the car. This information is needed to ensure that the correct account is credited for the toll as you pass under the sensors.

Reloading the Account

I-Pass users can elect to have a specific amount automatically deducted from their credit cards or checking accounts. The Illinois Tollway will reload the I-Pass account each time the balance gets low. Users can also add funds to their account at any I-Pass authorized retailer or customer service center.

Paying the Toll

As you near the toll booths, there are automatic, coin-operated booths, those with a human operator and a sign for I-Pass users. Go into the I-Pass lane and keep your speed steady. You will pass under two parallel metal tubes that arch over the roadway. These tubes are mounted with cameras, sensors and other communicators. Keep your speed constant, stay in the same lane and drive through them. The transponder on the dashboard will do all the work.

As the transponder passes under the tubes, information about the driver and the car (information input at activation) is transmitted to the central computer at the Illinois Tollway. A toll is then deducted from the driver’s account. In the event of insufficient funds in the driver’s account or a nonresponsive transponder, the video toll cameras will record your passage. Your account will be charged once identified, or a notice will be mailed to you.

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