McCook – Joined by Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and local officials, Gov Rauner urged the General Assembly to act on a resolution that would allow IDOT to add privately funded toll lanes to Interstate 55, in an effort to expand capacity and relieve growing congestion.
But the clock is ticking on authorizing the project. The General Assembly must pass a resolution by the end of March to give the okay to the project. Under existing state law, IDOT can seek to build, finance, operate, and maintain highway projects under a P3 as long as the General Assembly adopts a resolution in support of the project.
“We declared that Illinois was ‘open for business’ by inviting investors to become our partners in this much-needed project,” Governor Rauner said. “Sadly, the General Assembly did not get the message. Time is running out. The choice is clear. Do the right thing for the people of Illinois by creating thousands of jobs, reducing congestion and growing our economy.”
The managed lanes project would add a tolled express lane in both directions of I-55 between Interstate 355 and Interstate 90/94, resulting in hundreds of construction jobs and thousands of additional long-term jobs. Construction for the project is estimated at more than $400 million.
“Investors interested in improving transportation in Illinois have told us they need a decision on I-55 now,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn.
Since early 2016, legislators have refused to call a bipartisan resolution on I-55 for a vote.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said, “I first introduced this commonsense resolution more than one year ago. This is good public policy that to date has been ignored by the Democrats. We should give IDOT the ability to negotiate and procure private investors to advance this much needed project to ease congestion, improve travel times and keep our roads safer, while at the same time protecting Illinois taxpayers. I will be urging my Democratic colleagues to act quickly this week and pass my resolution so that we can move forward and bring some much needed relief to the motorists who depend on I-55,” said Durkin.
But a statement by Speaker Madigan released Monday, says the Speaker remains opposed to the project, until further information is known.
“Where possible, we have been willing to work with the Governor on various parts of his agenda this spring including selling of the Thompson Center in Chicago and the reorganization he wants to do within state government. Our concern with private investors being involved in a toll lane is that, once again, it seems as though Governor Rauner is more interested in helping his wealthy friends.
Despite multiple requests for information over several months, IDOT hasn’t prepared a plan that would lay out the costs, results, and anticipated tolls. IDOT hasn’t provided any evidence demonstrating that this project will save taxpayer dollars or result in better maintained roads. We continue to await this information.”
There is already significant interest in the project from local and international firms, with 17 firms participating in a response to a formal Request for Information (RFI) filed by IDOT last year.