CHICAGO — The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority board on Thursday approved two financial teams made up of 10 firms each to underwrite roughly $1 billion of toll-backed borrowing in its next two financings.

The first team will lead the sale of about $500 million of new-money borrowing expected in the first quarter, according to a board resolution. It would mark the agency's first financing to support its $12 billion, 15-year capital program known as Move Illinois.

The board approved JPMorgan and Loop Capital Markets LLC as senior managers for the first borrowing. RBC Capital Markets and Wells Fargo Bank NA will serve as co-senior managers, with another six co-managers.

The second slate of broker-dealers will underwrite either a second tranche of new-money — also for about $500 million — which is expected to price in the second or third quarter this year, or a proposed refunding.

The agency wants to refund $570 million of bonds now in a synthetic fixed-rate mode to a traditional fixed-rate mode. The timing of the refunding is "contingent on market conditions," so the second team would underwrite whichever of the two deals the agency decides to proceed with first, the resolution said.

The second slate will be led by Citi and Barclays Capital Inc. in the senior manager slots. BMO Capital Markets Inc. and Samuel Ramirez & Co. Inc. will serve as co-senior managers and another six firms would round out the team as co-managers.

The senior managers each would receive an allocation of 24 % of bonds, the co-seniors 10%, and the co-managers 5.33% in both sales. The firms were drawn from new pools of qualified underwriters established last August by the authority after a competitive selection process.

The authority's board approved a $1.5 billion 2013 budget in December that relies on a total of $1 billion in new-money debt issuance this year.

The authority last year launched projects under its new capital program aimed at reducing congestion and pollution, expanding the 52-year-old, 286-mile system, improving roads, and creating jobs and economic development in the region.

Projects slated for funding this year include the rebuilding and widening of one toll road, completion of new interchanges, and $96 million for initial work on the $3.4 billion Elgin O'Hare Western Access Project.

The U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday announced its approval of an agreement that paves the way for the western access project. The pact allows for the conversion of the Elgin-O'Hare expressway to a toll road. Federal approval was needed because the original project was funded with federal dollars.

"I am pleased that we found a solution, so that when built, this project can provide mobility for the people of Illinois for generations to come," said DOT Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. "I look forward to continuing to work with Governor [Pat] Quinn on this critical project."

The authority's capital program covers about $3.1 billion of the price tag for the expansion while local, state, and federal funds are expected to cover the rest.

The authority's Move Illinois program provides $8 billion for improvements to existing roads and $4 billion for new and expanded roadways. A steep toll increase of 87.5% will go toward repaying $4.8 billion of borrowing for the program.

Moody's Investors Service rates the authority Aa3. Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's rate its $4 billion of debt AA-minus. Fitch assigns a negative outlook.

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