Illinois could seek another toll way lease

| 5/17/2006

Officials acknowledge that a possible lease of the Illinois Tollway would not be as long-term as, say, the 99-year Chicago Skyway lease or the 75-year lease for the Indiana Toll Road, but 20 years is still 20 years.

The state of Illinois intends to hire a firm to calculate toll revenue and project how much money a lease could bring in for other state projects. Early estimates put that number as high as $14.6 billion, according to Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston, co-chairman of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.

The eventual outcome could mean a private toll road.

Chicago Business quotes Schoenberg as saying a privatized road system would help the state with needs like pensions and leveraging transportation grants.

Some lawmakers want to exercise caution with the lease option.

State Sens. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, and Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, would like to see provisions like exempting I-PASS holders from paying tolls on specific routes and requiring 66 percent of the lease price be used in toll-road counties.

Annual DOT inspections and a provision not to allow the private toll-road operator to make campaign contributions are also part of bills some lawmakers are proposing.

– By David Tanner, staff writer