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
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