On Monday, Governor Bruce Rauner joined Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn, Leader Jim Durkin and local officials to urge the General Assembly to take action on a resolution that would allow IDOT to address chronic congestion by adding managed lanes to Interstate 55. In order to keep the project on track as a public-private partnership, the General Assembly must pass a resolution by the end of March or a historic opportunity to invest in the state’s infrastructure will be lost.
In an official statement, “We declared that Illinois was ‘open for business’ by inviting investors to become our partners in this much-needed project,” Governor Rauner said. “Sadly, the General Assembly did not get the message. 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.”
“Investors interested in improving transportation in Illinois have told us they need a decision on I-55 now,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn. “A P3 is our one chance to deliver this project. The public has waited long enough. It’s time to act.”
Since early 2016, legislators have refused to call a bipartisan resolution on I-55 for a vote, denying motorists and taxpayers the benefits of an innovative solution to save money, enhance their quality of life and open up the state to new investment.
“I first introduced this commonsense resolution more than one year ago. This is good public policy that to date has been ignored by the Democrats. We should give IDOT the ability to negotiate and procure private investors to advance this much needed project to ease congestion, improve travel times and keep our roads safer, while at the same time protecting Illinois taxpayers. I will be urging my Democratic colleagues to act quickly this week and pass my resolution so that we can move forward and bring some much needed relief to the motorists who depend on I-55,” said Durkin.
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 law is modeled on best practices from across the country and includes opportunities for public hearings and input.
According to the Governor’s office, the managed lanes project would add a tolled express lane in both directions of I-55 between Interstate 355 and Interstate 90/94, resulting in hundreds of construction jobs and thousands of additional long-term jobs. Construction for the project is estimated at more than $400 million.
The administration says “there is already significant interest in the project from local and international firms”, with 17 firms participating in a response to a formal Request for Information (RFI) filed by IDOT last year.
In other words, if this resolution is passed–expect no free rides on I-55 if IDOT gets its way. We will keep you posted on this developing story.