Unions and watchdog groups met recently in Illinois to ask
state lawmakers to reconsider leasing the state toll way system to a private
company. Meanwhile, some supporters of the leasing concept said it would be
irresponsible to spend some of any future lease windfall on state pension debt
The sentiments were shared Thursday, July 20, in Grayslake, IL, during the third hearing on whether to lease the 274-mile system.
The Illinois Legislature isn’t expected to seriously consider the
proposal until members gather for the regular session that begins in January
2007. However, among the many concerns that opponents have is how the potential
lease revenue will be distributed.
Despite the concerns, lawmakers in support of the plan remain
undeterred. They said they are confident that a state-funded study of the deal
will relieve anxieties that include higher tolls and lost public control, the Daily Herald reported.
Later this summer, a financial firm is expected to wrap up a
state-funded analysis of various ways to lease parts or all of the toll way
system and how much money the deal could generate.
Illinois lawmakers led by Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston, started to
look into the possibility of leasing the toll way shortly after Indiana netted
$3.85 billion to lease its 152-mile stretch of Interstate 90 for 75 years. The
city of Chicago brought in $1.83 billion in a similar 99-year deal for its East
Some experts project that Illinois could rake in as much as $20 billion
for the toll way system, the Daily Herald reported.