Illinois approves privatization for new roads

| Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Illinois officials now are authorized to tap private companies to get new roads built. The state has already resorted to using the funding method to build the long-sought Illiana Expressway.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill into law Tuesday, Aug. 23, to open the door to allowing the state to form partnerships with private groups to get more road work done. The partnership would permit private business to partially or fully fund construction in return for revenues, such as tolls.

Previously HB1091, the new law does include some state oversight of any lease deals. State lawmakers are required to approve all potential public-private partnerships.

Also, the state is prohibited from partnering to expand existing roads.

Supporters said the state needs to consider tapping new resources to get road projects complete. They cite declining revenues available for taking the new approach.

Others said it is important to tie public officials to votes on whether to toll projects. Private business does not have to worry about answering to unhappy voters, they said.

Opponents question whether the state should form partnerships with profit-driven private business. They also doubt the long-term viability of this type of setup.

Private dollars are touted as the only viable option to pay for the long-discussed Illiana Expressway. In June 2010, Quinn and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a memorandum of understanding outlining a mutual commitment to the project connecting south Chicago to Indiana. Both men have touted the thousands of jobs that will be created and the benefit to regional commerce.

A year ago, Quinn signed into law a bill permitting the state to partner with private groups to develop, build and manage the proposed 53-mile expressway. Daniels approved similar legislation, which authorizes a private group to build and operate the proposed $1 billion roadway in exchange for toll revenue.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Illinois, click here.

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