Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn

CHICAGO - Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's administration says its plan to build a $1.5 billion privately financed toll road in partnership with Indiana remains on track with the endorsement of a key Chicago area planning committee.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee voted in favor Thursday of renewing its GO TO 2040 plan with the toll road project -- which was added last year. Its inclusion in the plan is required to secure federal help to build the project known as the Illiana expressway.

The 47-mile road would link northwest Illinois Interstate 65 with Illinois' Interstate 55.

The vote came one day after the board of its sister organization the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning voted 10-4 in favor of removing the Illiana project. The failure to reach a super majority prevented the action from taking effect. The agency's board then voted 10-4 against renewing the GO TO 2040 master plan.

The board and policy committee, which govern the region's long-term transportation planning under state and federal rules, are required to renew the master plan every four years. The Federal Highway Administration has previously signed off on the project but for the project to proceed and qualify for federal help it must be considered a major capital project in the GO TO 2040 plan.

The votes put opponents including environmental groups and Chicago area elected officials at loggerheads with the state. Critics contend it's the agency board vote that matters while Illinois officials contend the policy committee has the final say.

"We applaud today's MPO Policy Committee vote to stay the course on the Illiana Expressway and to provide for responsible, consistent regional planning. We look forward to next steps for the Illiana Expressway and all other projects in the plan that will improve regional mobility and quality of life while creating jobs and economic development," said Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Guy Tridgell.

Both states envision using a public private partnership under an availability payment model with tolls going to repay investors. It would mark a first time use of a P3 for the state while Indiana has advanced several projects using a P3 model.

Policy committee members from CMAP, the city, Cook County, one county outside Chicago, and several Chicago area transit agencies all voted against the plan with the project. Suburban mayors and representatives from five counties outside Cook, IDOT and tollway officials voted in favor of it. Several representatives that support the project sit on the policy committee but not the CMAP board.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center contends that CMAP approval of the plan is needed for federal funding and previously filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to clarify the issue

The two states have finalized a development pact for the proposed Illiana Corridor toll road that commits the two to a combined funding contribution of up to $350 million. The binding agreement calls for both states to use their best efforts to complete their respective portion of the project by the end of 2018. It outlines each state's roles, responsibilities and project management duties, as well as project delivery requirements and schedules.

The initial "conceptual" estimate for the road is up to $1.5 billion based on the first environmental impact study, but "it is anticipated that the Tier 2 EIS will identify, refine, and detail additional cost factors that will modify the projected conceptual costs," the agreement says.

Illinois has committed up to $250 million to the project and Indiana between $80 million and $100 million, according to the pact. The project would be financed through a mix of state and federal transportation program funds, proceeds of bonds, private activity borrowing, Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loans, and developer contributions.

Quinn and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence contend the project will create 13,000 construction jobs and result in an estimated $1.3 billion in wages over a 35-year period and $1 million in daily travel time savings. Illinois opponents call it a waste of precious transportation dollars that could leave the state on the hook for $1 billion if the toll road doesn't draw sufficient traffic.

Both states have announced their lists of qualified developer teams allowed to bid on project.

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