Illinois governor opposes toll way lease

| 6/26/2006

The Illinois Tollway is a valuable asset – either for the state to hold onto or for a private investor to lease in exchange for the toll revenue.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich is now on record as opposing a lease, something he was keeping an open mind to back in April.

“I have no interest in giving up the Tollway when we’re doing so many good things,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “I have no interest in turning it over to private investors.”

The statements by Blagojevich, a Democrat, are timely heading into the November gubernatorial race.

Blagojevich denies a political motivation for his comments, but Republican State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, a challenger in the November race for governor, is campaigning to keep the Tollway under state control.

Topinka challenged Blagojevich to make a similar promise to voters, particularly in suburban Chicago.

Blagojevich told the Tribune he believes the use of electronic toll collection and open-road tolling gives Illinois leverage to hold onto its assets as well as the toll revenue stream.

Two nearby states have accepted billions in up-front cash to hand over control of toll roads to private investors.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley signed a deal in 2005 to lease the 7-mile Chicago Skyway to ITR Concession Co., a Spanish-Australian consortium of Cintra-Macquarie, for $1.83 billion.

In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels spearheaded a plan that included the $3.85 billion lease of the Indiana Toll Road to the same private investment group.