Companies from around the world race for Indiana Toll Road lease

January 09, 2006

Competition for leasing the Indiana Toll Road appears to be surpassing that for the Chicago Skyway two years ago, the Northwest Indiana News reported, increasing the chances that Indiana could see a “blow-away bid.”

Indiana Budget Director Charles Schalliol confirmed that the state will most likely end up with more than the three bids the Skyway drew.

“We and our bankers are gratified that there are so many interested parties,” Schalliol said.

Qualified bidders must submit final binding bids and sign a 100-page concession agreement by Jan. 20 to be in the running for the lease, the Northwest Indiana News reported.

The eight-mile Skyway in Chicago drew only three final bids when put up for lease in late 2004.

State officials hope that the competition for the Toll Road lease can raise the $2.8 billion needed to complete the Indiana Department of Transportation’s 10-year draft transportation plan.

The Cintra-Macquarie consortium paid the city of Chicago $1.83 million for the right to run the Chicago Skyway, a prime commuter highway connecting Northwest Indiana to the Chicago Loop.

The move to lease the Indiana Toll Road is still controversial, the newspaper reported. Gov. Mitch Daniels has been promoting the move all around the state.

Some northern Indiana politicians and community leaders worry that Toll Road revenues, previously dedicated to toll road projects and northern Indiana roads, could go elsewhere under the proposal, the newspaper reported. The Indiana General Assembly will have to pass legislation to enable the lease to go forward.

A national business newspaper in Spain, La Gaceta de los Negocios, reported in November that four Spanish companies plan to bid on leasing Toll Road. The newspaper also reported that a French company, an Italian company, a Hong Kong-based company and several Australian companies are also interested in the bidding process, Northwest Indiana News reported.

If the privatization does go through, the Toll Road would be the first statewide transportation corridor in the U.S. to be managed by a private operator through a lease. The state anticipates the lease would through 2056.

The state designated qualified bidders in late October; however, Schalliol said it is possible the state could conduct another round of bidding if a number of bids come in very close.

Companies interested in leasing the road have sent delegations of up to three-dozen people to perform due diligence on the 157-mile road. Those have included end-to-end tours of the Toll Road and visits to the state’s online data room, the Northwest Indiana News reported.

According to Schalliol, the concession agreement spells out things like when the operator can raise rates, rules for adding lanes and the rules for hiring new help to operate the road.