Indiana governor pushes privatized tolls for Illiana Expressway

| 4/13/2006

Decade-old plans for the Illiana Expressway might have a future now that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has signed a bill that allows state roads to be leased to private corporations.

The bill, which is being challenged by Indiana residents and truckers who believe it is unconstitutional, received approval in the state House and Senate in March and was signed into law by Daniels.

That paved the way for the state to lease the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road to a private consortium, Statewide Mobility Partners, consisting of Macquarie Bank of Australia and Cintra Concessiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., of Spain.

The Post-Tribune in Merrilville, IN, quoted the governor April 12 as saying a private toll road would be one option to make the Illiana Expressway happen as a future link between Interstate 65 in Indiana and Illinois 394.

For years, politicians and residents of both states have discussed possible routes for the Illiana Expressway, but that’s as far as it has ever gotten.

“It’s just an idea right now,” said Jane Jankowski, a spokeswoman in Daniels’ office. “It’s just something that’s been an idea for a long time that people have been talking about.”

Several cities on the Illinois side have had meetings to discuss that state’s role in the plan. More meetings are planned. Those discussions, according to the Post-Tribune, have not included toll roads so far.

But, Daniels’ statements to the press are like the hum of a familiar tune – even though none of the $3.85 billion in up-front cash for the 75-year lease of the Indiana Toll Road is earmarked for the Illiana Expressway.

The Indiana Department of Transportation’s most recent 10-year funding plan does not include an earmark for the Illiana Expressway, either. That could either mean it is low on the state’s list of priorities, or it’s high on the list, but not going to happen with public dollars.

– By David Tanner, staff writer