Illinois P3 Lane Project Caught in Crossfire Between Governor, Lawmakers

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CHICAGO – Time is running short for Illinois to move forward with a public-private partnership to install managed lanes on a state interstate, Gov. Bruce Rauner warned lawmakers Monday.

Rauner was joined by local officials, Dept. of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn, and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, to urge the Democrat-controlled General Assembly to pass a resolution needed to allow the project to proceed. Prospective investors have told the state they want a decision soon and state legislative action on measures is due out of committees by Friday for action this session.

"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," Rauner said. "This can all be privately financed….the whole system can move more efficiently."

The state conducted a request for information last year and received responses from 17 firms interested in the project.

"A P3 is our one chance to deliver this project. The public has waited long enough. It's time to act," Blankenhorn said. "We need to do it now."

Rauner blamed House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, for blocking action on the project. The issue marks the latest one in which Madigan and Rauner have butted heads amid a nearly 22-month-old budget impasse.

Madigan tossed the blame back at Rauner.

Madigan said his caucus was willing to work with Rauner on the proposal and others like the sale of the state's downtown Chicago headquarters but needed more information because he's worried over the involvement of private investors in a project that could benefit Rauner's "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," Madigan said in a statement. "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."

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. The next step is a request for proposals process.

The project calls for the installation of a tolled express lane in both directions of Interstate 55 between I-355 and I-90/94. The state is touting the plan as a means to both reduce congestion as not cost to the state and to create jobs. Construction is estimated at more than $400 million.

The lane project would mark the state's first transportation P3. Officials are also considering a P3 for a $2.7 billion freeway expansion in Chicago due to the strong investor interest to the I-55 project. Illinois transportation projects are starved for funding as the state's $31 billion capital program winds down.

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