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Lightfoot Eyes 'Congestion Fees' As Way To Bridge Nearly $1 Billion Budget Gap

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The City of Chicago is staring down a nearly $1 billion budget gap. To bridge that gap, Mayor Lorie Lightfoot is exploring a new possible source of revenue that might impact any driver trying to reach the heart of the city.

Better known as congestion fees, they are meant to reduce traffic by charging a toll to access certain neighborhoods.

"Well, it could mean a lot of things," said Laurence Msall with the Civic Federation.

Lightfoot hasn't completely articulated the concept, but imagine an area like the Loops was defined as a restricted zone, where drivers pay a fee to enter.

Gridlock along Chicago's Magnificent Mile might be eliminated in much the same way.

Motorists could be charged on a device like an iPass and violators fined through a process like the city's red light camera system.

The idea is no longer a new one.

For example in New York, congestion pricing has already been approved, and it is going to take effect there in 2021.

The area includes Manhattan's business and financial districts. The daily fee is expected to cost between $10 and $15 with an exemption for residents. It could generate $15 billion.

Across the pond in London, they've been using a system of congestion pricing since 2003.

Drivers there pay about $14 to access the business district. It's led to a 15% reduction in traffic and a 30% drop in travel delays.

In Stockholm, Sweden, they started their system of congestion pricing in 2006 but with some different parameters.

In a city accessed by bridges, drivers there pay about $2 a crossing. Traffic there has been reduced by 20%.

"Certainly the unknown is the greatest anxiety most of us have," Msall said.

Msall says following hefty property and state income tax increases, the concept can't overburden the public.

"There is a lot that could be done that would not be onerous for people coming into the Loop as long as you provide alternatives for people who have to be coming in," he said.

Exceptions for congestion pricing could also be made for those with lower incomes as well as discounts offered to those taking public transportation.

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