SPECIAL REPORT: Indiana Toll Road lease deal closes

| 6/29/2006

The leasing of the Indiana Toll Road is, as they say, a done deal.

The last step in the process took place at the Indiana Finance Authority building in Indianapolis Thursday morning, June 29. In a conference room, various backers of the privatization of the toll road took calls from banks around the world.

The calls confirmed that $3.85 billion had been transferred out of the accounts of the foreign consortium that will operate the toll road and into the account of the state of Indiana.

Brad Rateike, a spokesman for Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, was there as the calls came in.

"The call would consist of a banker saying that X amount ... the largest was $995 million ... has been transferred to your Major Moves account," Rateike told Reed Black of OOIDA's XM Satellite Radio program, "Land Line Now."

Rateike said when all the calls were done, the entire $3.85 billion had been transferred and the lease was officially in place.

ITR Concession Co., which will operate the road for the next 75 years and keep all the revenue, consists of investors Cintra Concessiones de Infrastructuras de Transporte, S.A., of Spain and Macquarie Infrastructure Group of Australia.

And the Indianapolis Star reported one of the first things the consortium will do is hand out 20,000 American flags to toll road motorists on July 4.

The same investment consortium, under the name Skyway Consession Co., operates the 99-year, $1.83 billion lease of the Chicago Skyway in Illinois.

In related news, also on Thursday, Indiana officials were scheduled to conduct public forums on another privatization plan.

State officials want a similar deal for an I-69 extension as was struck for the Indiana Toll Road. Four public forums held Thursday were billed by state officials as being an opportunity to gather public input on whether the proposed 142-mile extension of I-69 from Indianapolis to Evansville should be a toll road.

The extension is one of the projects included in the Major Moves legislation signed into law this spring by Daniels. It would be a 142-mile extension of I-69, eyed by state and federal officials to be part of a NAFTA inter-modal system of transportation from Mexico to Canada.

Daniels said he hopes to break ground on the $2 billion I-69 extension in 2008, according to the Indianapolis Star.

A group of Indiana residents, with the Indiana Toll Road and the I-69 extension in mind, challenged the constitutionality of "Major Moves" in court, but Daniels and the state received a favorable ruling last week from the Indiana Supreme Court.

- By Reed Black and David Tanner, staff writers