Private groups could soon be cleared to build and operate the Illiana Expressway in Indiana in exchange for toll revenue.
Indiana law now prohibits tolling or privatization of the proposed roadway. As currently proposed, it is to be a 23-mile state highway built to interstate standards to connect Interstate 65 in northwest Indiana with Interstate 55 near Joliet, IL. About 10 miles of the roadway would be built in the Hoosier State.
The state’s Senate voted unanimously Tuesday, March 2, to sign off on House changes to a bill that would authorize a private group to build and operate the Illiana Expressway in exchange for toll revenue. The bill – SB382 – now moves to Gov. Mitch Daniels’ desk for his expected signature. It was four years ago that Daniels leased the Indiana Toll Road to private investors for $3.85 billion in upfront cash.
If signed into law, SB382 would remove the restrictions on tolling and privatization. It would authorize a public-private partnership to complete the proposed Illiana Expressway.
The few lawmakers along the way who voted in opposition of the bill had concerns about the many unknowns that remain about the Illiana project, such as the exact path.
Supporters touted job creation, economic growth and the lack of funding now available to the state for needed road work.
Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, said once the governor signs on it might not be very long before a deal is lined up for the expressway project.
“It depends on how fast the state gets moving on this process of looking for investors,” he told lawmakers Tuesday shortly before the Senate vote.
Also included in the bill is a provision that would also authorize a public-private partnership project for bridges over the Ohio River connecting Indiana and Kentucky. In addition, the Indiana Department of Transportation would be responsible for studying high-speed rail connecting South Bend and Fort Wayne.
Other provisions included in the bill would require an economic impact study and environmental analysis, as well as a public hearing once the study is complete and another one after a private developer is found.
OOIDA issued a Call to Action to its Indiana members Wednesday, March 3, encouraging them to share their views on this issue with Gov. Daniels. You can read the Call to Action at www.ooida.com/.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Indiana in 2010, click here.
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