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Old 04-05-2015, 12:57 AM   #1
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Avoiding Chicagoland while towing? EZ-Pass when towing?

This February, I passed through Chicago around 10:00 pm. It was dark. Traffic was still heavy and moving quite briskly, and while trying to follow the directions on my GPS, I scrambled to find my EZ-Pass (from the NY State Thruway Authority) which luckily worked in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. When I checked my EZ-Pass account online, I think I had racked up over $20 in tolls! I had been following I-90 through Madison, WI, then I don't know what roads through Chicagoland, then I must have taken I-80 because I remember going through Toledo, OH and then around 4:00 am Detroit, MI which had very light traffic at that hour. I'm no stranger to drive through big cities. Even better if I've gotten familiar with them, but Chicago scares me - especially since I'll be towing my 25 foot Airstream this time.

One lesson learned: don't blindly follow your GPS! It may put you on the shortest route, but it may not be the easiest one to drive! I need to get from Vancouver, BC to London, ON and stop in at Can-Am RV before continuing on a bit further.

Since I will be towing my 25 foot Airstream, I really don't want to take the route through heavy traffic in Chicago, and then multiple lane changes in heavy traffic into Indiana. I'm going to be coming from the PNW, so think of coming from Spokane, WA following I-90 through the Idaho panhandle, right across Montana (most likely), then South Dakota, or I-94 through North Dakota and Minneapolis, MN, then.... I'm not sure. Going through Chicago the way I did last time is certainly the shortest route. Maybe if I aim to pass through after midnight it won't be as busy? I could detour a bit south to Peoria, IL and Peru, IN but that's a lot of extra driving. And then to avoid Detroit, I could go through Kalamazoo, Lansing and Flint, MI and cross into Canada through Port Huron, MI into Sarnia, ON.

I'm really looking forward to hearing from any of you who live, or routinely drive through Chicago, and/or the way I need to travel. Any tips or advice for avoiding heavy traffic, or a better route would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

PS: I'm getting conflicting information online regarding use of the EZ-Pass. In case it makes a difference, mine is from the New York State Thruway Authority. Some info online says I cannot use an EZ-Pass when towing a trailer. Others says you can and there's no extra charge, while other info says I can use the EZ-Pass and will be charged based on the number of axles (two extra ones when they count the ones on my Airstream), but possibly only in certain states... Would it be counted like two cars then? So instead of about $20 in tolls I'll be paying around $40 in tolls through IL, IN and OH?
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Old 04-05-2015, 01:21 AM   #2
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The one time we went thru Chicago toward Indiana on our way to Washington State it was a bit of a nightmare. Masses of huge trucks going very fast, heavy traffic, lots of construction, very confusing, numerous toll booths for which we weren't prepared, and... to top it off, somehow we took a wrong turn which put us on the loop going THRU Chicago-O'Hare airport Arrivals/Departures with very low clearances. And the frosting on the story is this... we were in our 43'+ Class A towing a Chevy Avalanche. No possibility of turning around, backing up, or stopping, really. We shouldn't have been able to make it under the low overpasses, but somehow we did. God was with us that day! The whole experience made us NEVER wanting to get anywhere near Chicago EVER again.

I commend you for seeking an alternative route!
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Old 04-05-2015, 01:58 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by DHart View Post
The one time we went thru Chicago toward Indiana on our way to Washington State it was a bit of a nightmare. Masses of huge trucks going very fast, heavy traffic, lots of construction, very confusing, numerous toll booths for which we weren't prepared, and... to top it off, somehow we took a wrong turn which put us on the loop going THRU Chicago-O'Hare airport Arrivals/Departures with very low clearances. And the frosting on the story is this... we were in our 43'+ Class A towing a Chevy Avalanche. No possibility of turning around, backing up, or stopping, really. We shouldn't have been able to make it under the low overpasses, but somehow we did. God was with us that day! The whole experience made us NEVER wanting to get anywhere near Chicago EVER again.

I commend you for seeking an alternative route!
Yes, lots of semis, an inordinate amount of tractor trailers it seemed in Chicago. Luckily the two times I've driven through Chicago, I was not towing anything. I was also unprepared for the endless amount of tolls - luckily I had an EZ-Pass, but I still had to pay. It's stories like yours and mine that makes me want to avoid Chicago, especially since I'll be towing my 25 foot Airstream this time.

I don't know how people can live there, lol! No offense to anyone who lives in Chicago. To anyone who does, I admire you for putting up with all of that traffic, mandatory lane changes and never-ending tolls.
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Old 04-05-2015, 06:08 AM   #4
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Not sure I understand where you want to end up? Coming from PNW, to where?

We live in Kansas City, and have good friends in Milwaukee. We get to them by going I35 to a bit past Des Moines, I believe to I 80 for a bit, and then go across a wonderful 4 land road that connects to Madison from Iowa. IMHO built for travel between the 2 universities (U of Iowa and Wisconsin) to watch sports and not go through Chicago.
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Old 04-05-2015, 06:46 AM   #5
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I bought my EZ Pass for use with the trailer and registered it as 4 axles, truck plus trailer. Tolls will be based on that.
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Old 04-05-2015, 07:26 AM   #6
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EZPass and Chicago

Having pulled my Airstream with my Dodge about 40,000 plus miles, including a 5 PM weekday pul north on I-90,94 through downtown Chicago (about 1 1/2 hours), I can attest to the Chicago traffic. I am guessing I have been through Chicago more than 25 times, cars, motorcycles, moho, and of course pulling the AS. My usual route was coming up from Indianapolis, headed to Milwaukee or in some situations more west on I-90.

Last time, using the 294 Bypass, the tolls with the AS were $13,25. The rule as it has been explained to me by the folks at EZPass is this. If you are an "occasional user" pulling the trailer, the single vehicle fee is applicable. If the TV is used full time to pull the trailer, then a special EZPass needs to be obtained based upon axles. This was the situation with my moho, three axles, eight wheels.

My route from North Carolina to Milwaukee and points north requires going through Chicago. The good news....at about 8 PM headed south bound on a Sunday night, the downtown route has no traffic. One can move about 55 mph with no traffic slowdowns. I do this when I am returning home from Wisconsin. At any other time, I-294 bypass is preferred.

Is there an advantage to having EZPass....at a dollar a month fee?....on the West Virginia Turnpike it saves about 15 - 20 minutes by my best estimation. In the rain, no issues there as well. On many of the high speed toll collection sites, the time saved, and fuel, from moving through at 55 mph + is huge. No stopping required.

Love my New Jersey EZPass
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Old 04-05-2015, 07:38 AM   #7
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First the Ezpass: If you are towing a trailer you need to secure a Commercial Ezpass from Ezpass. It is a small blue transponder. We have two for my truck, one the blue one for the AS and one larger white one for the truck by itself. When not being used they are in the foil wrapper they were shipped in. If you do not register and use the proper Ezpass you are subject to a fine of up to $1,000.00 and a citation from the State Police in the state you committed the toll violation. I got this from several Ezpass states by calling - talking and asking direct questions. The post by Isbrodsky is correct and that is how it's registered and taxed as I consider a toll a tax.

As far as Chicago goes: I don't go near the place, trailer or not. We do go west and take I70 and then if going north make a turn at Kansas City to start north. I do not like large cities, do not like some of the rules and regulations in Chicago and IL so I avoid both as much as possible.
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Old 04-05-2015, 07:41 AM   #8
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If you don't mind a few extra miles, coming out of WIsconsin go south on I-39 to I-80 East. Miss the much of the Chicago traffic. No good way to miss the Indiana mess but avoiding rush hour helps some. Just used this route last week when pulling our new to us 2003 Classic S/O from mid-Michigan to SW Wisconsin.
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Old 04-05-2015, 07:42 AM   #9
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If you're coming down I90, you can totally avoid the city by taking I355 South and hooking up with I80. You can jump on to 94 if you want to avoid tolls once you get into Indiana. 355 is a newer expressway and this route will totally avoid Chicago proper. There may be traffic at times, but it's nothing like the crazies on the Dan Ryan Expressway! They're all my stomping grounds & that's the route I would take with a trailer.
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Old 04-05-2015, 07:42 AM   #10
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Here's a little known point. Register your I-pass (EZ-pass works too....reciprocal agreement) as a 2 axle, and run through the high speed lanes with the AS. You get charged for 2 less axles and they don't care for a follow-up. Been doing it for....well however long we have had high speed tolling. 2 axle, with I-pass, from Wisc to In, is about $5. Don't take Skyway.

(as above I355 is the only way to go.)
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Old 04-05-2015, 07:50 AM   #11
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EZPass and Chicago

Here is a quote from the NJEZPass website FAQs:
<<<<<
I sometimes pull a camper or trailer with my vehicle. Can I still use my tag?

Yes. In this instance the equipment in the lane is designed to identify that your vehicle is pulling a trailer and you will be charged accordingly. However, if you think this will be a regular occurrence, you should call the Customer Service Center and have them send you a tag programmed for the vehicle classification you use most frequently. You should never use your tag in a vehicle type other than the one you initially requested (i.e. Car tag in a tractor-trailer).
>>>>>

Also, the individual EZPass account, up to four tags, limits the GVWR to 7,000 lbs. Thus, if one has a dually over this weight.....your call, but it requires a different account type.

So, in view of what New Jersey EZPass has published, I think I am within the guidelines set.

Also, without the EZPass tag, if you go through a manned toll booth, the agent will in many cases charge you for all four axles, like in Texas where the bypass around Houston cost me a lot, as best I remember.

About I-355....I cannot see how this would work coming from Milwaukee, headed to Indianapolis??? How does one get over to 355 from 94?
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Old 04-05-2015, 07:58 AM   #12
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As posted in another thread by someone else a while back some of the high speed lanes will pick up a TT as an 18 wheeler.

As I posted earlier the PA Ezpass told me what I have gone to, two transponders and said ticketing is up to the State Police not the toll booth people. They are the ones who twice told me the fines are up to $1,000.00. Up until this year we too used just the one vehicle transponder for my truck, but a friend got pulled over entering the NY State Thruway pulling a 5th Wheel and was issued a warning by the Statie and told next time, a fine. So we opted for the two units, not an issue for us, both are in the center console wrapped in their foil pouches.
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Old 04-05-2015, 08:00 AM   #13
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We live about 80 miles southwest of Chicago and often travel east. Our plan is to drive late at nite to avoid the rush hours but no matter what time there is always a lot of truck traffic but it still beats dropping south and crossing into Indiana at another point.

The IPass is something we wouldn't do without and it's recognized in most states going east. We got to Florida this winter and had to buy a Sunpass which irritated me but was told that in two years they are under a mandate to reciprocate with all states. Not sure if this is true or not.
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Old 04-05-2015, 08:01 AM   #14
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With a trip from as long as you've described, you can really do anything you want to avoid Chicago by hundreds of miles. How about going through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, across the Mackinac Bridge, over to Port Huron and then onto London? The "shortest" route through Chicago is 2,555 miles. The UP trip would be 2,539 miles. So it is actually fewer miles, although according to GP it would take an hour longer.

We were in Colorado last summer and decided to swing by St. Ignace, Michigan for a family reunion. It was a significant detour and added a thousand miles to our trip, but the northern Wisconsin and UP of Michigan were beautiful.
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Old 04-05-2015, 08:24 AM   #15
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I will second the 355 route...I took 294 to 90 last Summer. Tolls and traffic were crazy. You can also take I-80 and skirt around Chicago from either direction. I've done this and taken 39 N to Wisconsin from 80 while coming from Indiana. It's a bit of a detour but it eliminates Chicago traffic and is less expensive
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Old 04-05-2015, 08:44 AM   #16
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We detoured around Chicago easily by using roads west of the city heading north, north east toward Wisconsin line. 88 'east to 294 north or 355 north will get you far quickly instead of going through the city.
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Old 04-05-2015, 09:01 AM   #17
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I have NJ ez pass, go thru Chicagoland four times a year, I even get to drive nice side city streets to get to my destination. From the East, I just head North after Gary In, when I hit Dan Ryan, I get over one lane and Inam in perfect position to go all the way to Milwaukee, no more lane chanes.

My ez pass works fine, i never check fees, for me ifpt is just part of the trip.
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Old 04-05-2015, 11:33 AM   #18
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We made the run from MPLS to Grand Rapids, MI last year without much difficulty by taking I-39 to avoid Chicago. It was comparatively a much nicer drive. Driving through there so infrequently we haven't bothered with EZ Pass but just go through the regular manned toll booths. Going through the Upper Peninsula is a nice trip and U.S. 2 has numerous passing lanes now, but it will be slower.
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Old 04-05-2015, 12:58 PM   #19
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I will drive 500 miles out of my before I will ever drive thru that state again if I have too. Worst towing experience I have ever had.
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Old 04-05-2015, 01:04 PM   #20
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I went thru a sun pass toll near orlando with my ez pass from Rhode Island and 3 months later no nasty fine / letter. It would be nice if they all worked on one system .
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