Illinois governor calls for adding toll lanes on I-55

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/10/2016

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is moving forward with plans to tap a private group to help the state pay for new lanes along a stretch of interstate in the Chicago area.

A state House resolution announced by the governor would allow the Illinois Department of Transportation to partner with a private investor to add managed lanes to a 25-mile segment of I-55, or the Stevenson Expressway.

A 2011 Illinois law allows IDOT to build, finance, operate, and maintain highway projects using public-private partnerships. The only hitch is the General Assembly must adopt a resolution in support of the project.

If the resolution is approved by state lawmakers, the I-55 project would be the state’s first public-private partnership.

Rauner’s office touts the effort as an opportunity to deliver the project more quickly and at a reduced cost.

“This is an innovative project that will create jobs, improve the region’s quality of life and show that Illinois is open for business,” Rauner said in prepared remarks.

The I-55 managed lanes project would add at least one lane in each direction between Interstate 355, also known as the Veterans Memorial Tollway, and Interstate 90/94, also known as the Dan Ryan Expressway.

The governor’s administration says the affected segment carries 170,000 vehicles each day, but is heavily congested. The result is slowed commutes and increased costs for the delivery of goods and services.

“Managed lanes are truly an expressway within an expressway – one more option that will make travel more convenient for everyone who uses I-55,” stated Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn.

Blankenhorn says that permitting a private group to do the work could allow the agency to save an estimated $425 million in construction costs.

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno added that relieving congestion on the Stevenson Expressway must be a priority for the state.

“However, we must be creative in addressing our transportation challenges,” said Radogno of Lemont. “This is an innovative approach that has been successful in other states and should be explored here.”

The resolution, HJR125, awaits House consideration.

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

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