CHICAGO – Former Cook County board member Elizabeth “Liz” Gorman took the helm of the Illinois Toll Highway Authority this week.

Gorman’s appointment as executive director took effect Thursday. She will lead an agency that manages a 294-mile tollway system in northeastern Illinois and its $1.45 billion annual budget and $14 billion capital program.

Gorman replaces Greg Bedalov who recently resigned.

Bedalov will start later this month as head of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, the city/state agency that owns Guaranteed Rate Field which is home to Major League Baseball’s Chicago White Sox. The agency also issued debt to finance renovations to the Chicago Park District-owned Soldier Field that is home to the National Football League’s Chicago Bears.

“As a business and community leader, Liz Gorman provides an intimate understanding of the power of collaboration, technology and innovation,” authority board chairman Bob Schillerstrom said in a statement. “We have confidence that Liz’s leadership will be an asset to the Tollway and its customers and her vast experiences will help to improve our transportation network for the region and the communities we serve.”

Construction on the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority's Tri-State Tollway.
The agency that manages Illinois' tollway system and its $14 billion capital budget has a new executive director. Illinois Tollway

The authority’s board is appointed by the governor but it operates as an independent agency that relies mostly on toll collections.

Gorman, a Republican, served for 13 years as a county board commissioner. She has also served as a member of the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission which later merged with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning which shapes regional transportation and land use planning. Gorman left the county board in 2015 and since has served as director of state & local government at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The tollway authority is a frequent borrower with plans to issue about $300 million in new money this year to support its $14 billion, 15-year Move Illinois capital program.

The authority last sold debt in November when it priced a $300 million deal. The authority paid the limited market pricing penalty that’s imposed on Illinois-based governments whether they have exposure to the state’s fiscal struggles or not.

The authority’s bonds are rated AA-minus by both Fitch Ratings and S&P Global Ratings and Aa3 by Moody’s Investor’s Service, ratings affirmed before the November deal.

Significant additional borrowing of $2.9 billion over the next six years for the capital program will drag down liquidity levels but they should remain at a level consistent with the rating, S&P said. The authority has issued $2.8 billion so far to support the program.

To support the capital program, the board adopted a one-time 87% increase in passenger tolls and is phasing in a 60% increase in commercial vehicle tolls that will also be adjusted annually based on inflation.

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