CHICAGO — Investment banks interested in working on the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority’s new-money and refunding bond sales planned over at least the next two years have until Oct. 20 to submit their qualifications to the agency.
The authority will establish a senior manager underwriting and remarketing agent pool and a separate co-manager pool, although the senior manager firms will also qualify to serve in a co-manager’s role on any transactions. Submissions are due by 12 p.m. Central Daylight Time on Oct. 20.
Pending deals include plans to issue about $250 million of new money late this fall to fund the ongoing $6.3 billion capital program and refunding opportunities. Any new issuance tied to the controversial second phase of the authority’s capital plans are on hold as a handful of new board members, including new board chairwoman Paula Wolff, have yet to review.
Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to make additional appointments to the board as the terms of several members have expired.
The authority five years ago embarked on a $6.3 billion program that relies on $3.5 billion of borrowing to rebuild and expand the now 286-mile system five years ago.
The ISTHA in May sold $500 million of taxable Build America Bonds.
Last fall, the authority and then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced a $1.8 billion second phase to the capital program that calls for the construction of car pool or “green lanes,” an interchange at the Tri-State Tollway and Interstate 57, improvements to the I-290/I-90 interchange, and other projects. Commercial vehicles will pay higher toll rates beginning in 2015 to help fund the program.
The second phase has come under heightened scrutiny as federal prosecutors allege in court documents that the former governor sought $500,000 in campaign contributions from a contractor who would benefit from the new program.
Concerns were raised that it was Blagojevich’s efforts to extract the funds ahead of the Jan. 1 effective date for new campaign contribution rules for state contractors that prompted quick passage of the program. An internal review by the agency found no wrongdoing.
The agency’s $3.3 billion of debt is rated AA-minus with a negative outlook by Fitch Ratings. Moody’s Investors Service rates the tollway Aa3 with a stable outlook. Standard & Poor’s rates the system AA-minus with a stable outlook. Net revenues of the system secure the bonds. Fitch blamed the outlook change earlier this year on the potential drop in debt-service coverage levels if toll revenue fails to grow rapidly.