CHICAGO - Bondholders of defaulted Chicago-Calumet Skyway debt have filed a petition in federal court to increase tolls on the roadway in order to raise more money and pay off the bonds.
The petition, filed on Friday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, asks the court to require Chicago to raise the toll to $2 per trip from $1.75.
That would increase revenues by 8.8%, or $1.2 million a year, according to a traffic engineer hired by the bondholders.
The city's "foremost" duty is to maintain skyway tolls "at levels that will maximize skyway revenues so as to stay current with the city's obligations under the bond ordinances to contribute funds to the interest and sinking fund accounts," the bondholders contended.
The petition says Chicago, which issued $101 million of revenue bonds for the skyway in the mids, 1950s "remains seriously in default in making its required deposits to the sinking fund account" for the outstanding bonds. A recent audit of the skyway's finances for fiscal years 1990 and 1991 found that the city remained $64.6 million behind in its sinking fund contributions.
While the city redeemed $10.8 million of the $1 01 million of bonds through a tender offer last year, the $90.2 million balance of bonds that remain payable from the sinking fund account are scheduled to mature Jan. 1, 1995.
The petition contends that both the city and bondholders would benefit from a toll increase, saying it would result in higher revenues to help retire the bonds and "bring the skyway that much closer to being a free road."
Andrea Brands, a spokeswoman for the city's law department, said yesterday the city was reviewing the petition and would not have any further comments until it files its response in court.
The city has resisted past attempts to increase tolls on the skyway, contending that higher tolls would decrease traffic.
Ken Purcell, an attorney with Winston & Strawn, which is representing the bondholders, said the filing is bondholders' 12th request for a toll increase since 1972. Of the previous 11 petitions, he said, the court denied only the last two, filed in 1990 and 1991.
Last year, bondholders were successful in getting a court-ordered agreement with the city to place $9.4 million of skyway revenues into the sinking fund for the tender offer. At that time, city officials said they did not foresee any more redemptions of the bonds in the near future.
Chicago defaulted in, 1963 on the $101 million of bonds, supported solely by revenues from the 7.8-mile toll road that connects the city's southeast side with the northwest corner of Indiana.
While the city has paid all past due interest on the bonds since 1989, it has failed to place any money outside of last year's court ordered tender offer into the sinking fund.