Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich
appears to be singing a slightly different tune about putting the state’s
pay-as-you-go roads up for bid to private groups. The revelation is in contrast
to what Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk told the Chicago Tribune early this
At the time, Tusk said the
governor has other priorities to privatizing the toll highway authority. He
said Blagojevich has his sights set on providing open-road tolling and the
extension of Interstate 335.
Blagojevich said Monday, April 24,
that the proposed leasing of the 274-mile Illinois Tollway system is a better
idea for bringing in revenue than raising taxes.
While the governor isn’t ready to
formally endorse the plan yet, Blagojevich said he’s been considering the idea
of leasing the toll highway, and bringing in possibly billions in revenue, for
years, WBBM Newsradio 780 reported.
The governor’s turnabout follows
the recent action by an Illinois legislative panel to open up a process that
could lead to the Tollway being put up for bid.
The General Assembly’s Commission
on Government Forecasting and Accountability voted April 4 to seek proposals
from financial experts to determine how much a lease of the Tollway might earn
The idea was first unveiled in
January when state Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston, said he would call on the
bipartisan forecasting arm to see how much the state could gain by leasing or
selling all or part of the tollway system.
Schoenberg pointed out that the
75-year lease of the Indiana Toll Road netted the Hoosier State $3.85 billion
and the 99-year lease of the Chicago Skyway brought in $1.83 billion. He said
those figures could translate into a $14.6 billion price tag for the Illinois Tollway.
“The Illinois Tollway is now more
attractive than ever to investors,” Schoenberg, co-chairman of the commission,
recently told chicagobusiness.com. The road system is “well-positioned
to bring Illinois to address some of its most critical needs,” including paying
pensions and pulling in federal road funding.
The legislative panel set a May 5
deadline for revenue projection bids, Reuters reported. But the governor
says the idea needs more study, and won’t be decided until next year at the