Leading candidate for governor would lease Illinois Tollway

| 1/7/2010

Jim Ryan, the leading Republican candidate running for governor in Illinois, has unveiled a transportation proposal calling for the Illinois Tollway System to be leased to the highest bidder for upfront cash.

Ryan, according to a variety of polls, leads a field of six Republican candidates squaring off in the Feb. 2 primary. He also possesses a lead over incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

“I want to consider and will consider every innovative approach possible to address our budget problems,” Ryan stated during a press event Monday, Jan. 4. “I’m willing to put everything on the table and take a look at it.”

The concept of leasing toll roads to the private sector is still relatively new, with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley carrying out one of the first such deals in 2005 for the Chicago Skyway.

OOIDA, the American Highway Users Alliance and other groups continue to oppose the leasing or sale of existing infrastructure to the private sector.

Mayor Daley’s deal in 2005 leased the rights to the Chicago Skyway for 99 years to Skyway Concession Co., owned by Spanish firm Cintra and Australian firm Macquarie.

Daley has used proceeds from the $1.83 billion deal to pay down city debts.

The proposal by Ryan has a familiar ring to it. He said he would use proceeds to pay down debts incurred by the state. Like most states, Illinois wants to raise revenue to shore up the budget.

The Illinois Tollway System consists of 286 miles of suburban toll roads.

Ryan faces six Republicans in the February primary: Sen. Kirk Dillard; state Sen. Bill Brady; former state GOP Chairman Andy McKenna; businessman Adam Andrzejewski; political consultant Dan Proft; and DuPage County Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom.

The candidate that emerges will face either Quinn or the other Democrat in the primary race, state Comptroller Dan Hynes.

Truckers know Quinn for signing a bill into law in 2009 to eliminate split speed limits on most Illinois roadways. Quinn was sworn in a year ago after the state House voted to impeach embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich had vetoed the split-speed bill multiple times while in office.

The Quinn election campaign is focusing on the need for tax increases, cost cutting and additional borrowing to shore up state budgets.

In late December 2009, prior to Ryan unveiling his Tollway proposal, Rasmussen polls saw him ahead of Quinn 46 percent to 39 percent.

– By David Tanner, staff writer