Illinois lawmaker calls for privatizing state's tollway

| 1/26/2006

While Hoosier lawmakers spar over the potential pitfalls of privatizing the Indiana Toll Road, an Illinois legislator said the time is ripe for his home state to put its pay-as-you-go roads up for bid.

Indiana this week, gave Illinois billions of good reasons to take a more aggressive look at the potential for such an arrangement on our side of the border,” State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston, told The Times in northwest Indiana .

On Monday, Jan. 23, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced that Cintra-Macquarie, a Spanish-Australian consortium that runs the Chicago Skyway, put in a $3.85 billion bid to take over the 157-mile toll route. The bid amount would more than cover a $2.8 billion shortfall the state has for funding road and bridge work throughout the state.

A similar shortfall of $3.2 billion is hindering Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s effort to fund a program to build roads and schools.

In response, Schoenberg said Wednesday, Jan. 25, he would ask the Illinois General Assembly’s bipartisan forecasting arm next week to crunch the numbers to see how much money could be fetched to lease the 274-mile Illinois Tollway. He is the Senate co-chairman of the group.

Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk said the governor’s office hadn’t spoken with Schoenberg about his plan, but Tusk said the governor has other priorities at the toll highway authority, the Chicago Tribune reported. Instead, Blagojevich has his sights set on providing open-road tolling and the extension of Interstate 335.

Meanwhile, the Indiana House is preparing for debate on leasing the state’s toll road.