Pets on planes. Tolls on freeways. Conflicts of interest. Readers flooded my inbox with outraged, humorous and pointed comments about the above issues, which is why I'm turning this column over to you.
Let's start with a plan floated by the White House to expand a pilot program converting certain freeways to tollways.
More free rides for kidsYou and the kids can get a deal on Metra on weekdays this summer starting June 16. The Family Fare program normally lets three children age 11 and under ride for free when accompanied by a fare-paying adult on weekends and holidays. The latest offer runs through Aug. 30.
The concept struck a nerve here, where one option to pay for extending Route 53 into Lake County includes tolling an existing section of the road near Schaumburg. An advisory group working on the Route 53 plan financials is expected to update the Illinois tollway this Wednesday at a committee meeting.
Jan Spaletto knows how she'd vote, given a chance. After moving to Palatine 43 years ago, "I realized quickly that the only way to go either south or north from my home in the southeast corner of Palatine was to use Route 53," she said.
"We need this stretch of Route 53 to remain a freeway unless, of course, the 'plan' includes appropriations for making an underpass for Rohlwing Road to go under Route 53, once again making this a viable road for people who can't pay the outrageous toll the politicians propose. And 45 mph? My opinion is that those proposing these changes are just plain nuts."
Talk about improving Route 53 has gone on interminably, says Nick Gregory of Lake Villa. "I am thinking that the extension is in the same boat as the Chicago Cubs, as they're both losing propositions. At least the Cubs have the income coming at the 'gate' whether they win or lose," he wrote.
"In my opinion the Illinois, Cook County, Lake County governments and the Illinois tollway hasn't the sense to go through with the project of the Route 53 extension. Nobody can see that traffic would flow much better for 'thousands' of motorists each and every day if the extension was to go through. Must be that they're wearing 'blinders' like they put on horses."
And on the broader issue of tolling freeways, reader Dean Worthem wants to know "why is it that the northern third of this state is all tollway, and the southern two-thirds is not? I really think it's high time that everybody gets in the game!
"We are the hub of the Midwest and you can't tell me that the southern two-thirds of this state does not see practically the same amount of traffic and pavement repairs."
But Rob VanDerMolen of Elgin thinks "there is a need to update the way that roads are built and maintained, but toll roads are not the way to go.
"We as a state and nation would be much better off making all roads freeways and collecting the money needed to build and maintain the roads with a fuel tax. It could be done as a percentage of the cost of fuel, but that could lead to voter road rage when the cost of fuel spikes due to world events. Or it could be based on the number of miles driven, since all vehicles are getting better fuel mileage due to market forces and government mandates."
Meanwhile, Larry D'Oench wrote that "an easier way to collect toll money is via fuel tax. Admittedly, that tolls the people who don't drive freeways, but on the other hand, (it) would have the benefit of reducing fossil fuel consumption."
Switching gears, Art Przbyl weighed in on conflict of interest concerning James Sweeney, an Illinois tollway board director. Sweeney heads a union that has contributed thousands to the election campaign of Gov. Pat Quinn, who appointed him.
"Here's the take of a 73-year resident of Illinois," Przbyl wrote. "Politicians think they can do whatever they want. Politicians think they can benefit themselves and their families at the expense of the hardworking taxpayers.
"No, I'm wrong. Politicians don't THINK at all. They assume they are ENTITLED to do whatever they want once they are in office and the taxpayers really have nothing to say about it, because we will forget about it before the next election."
Sandy Macarol of Arlington Heights got steamed over a column about a woman with allergies who had to forgo a flight because of a dog on board.
"My husband and grandchildren have severe allergies to dogs and cats," Macarol wrote. Once "I saw a man take his cat out from under the seat and put it on his lap. The dander is now floating around the plane and for the next flights, also. Does it take the airlines being sued over a death of a child, so Felix and Rover are cozy in the plane cabin flying off to see Aunt Susie?"
Thanks for the comments and keep sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chicago Clean Cities runs its annual Green Drives event from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 21 in the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton. Mingle with eco-friendly folks and gear heads to kick the tires and drive the latest green cars plus learn about alternative fuels -- for free. For more information, visit chicagocleancities.org.
It's ugly out there. Here are the latest road work horrors:
• The Bartlett Road bridge on the Jane Addams (I-90) Tollway in Hoffman Estates closes this Monday to make way for a new one. Detours will be posted and completion is set for fall.
• Sorry, Reagan Tollway (I-88) drivers. Pavement repairs between the Aurora Toll Plaza and Route 59 start this week. Expect delays and lane closures overnight. Work starts in the eastbound lanes then moves west in June. It should end later this summer.