Legislative panel seeks proposals on lease of Illinois Tollway

News Crain's Chicago Business April 05, 2006
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A legislative panel recently began a process that could lead to the lease of part or all of the Illinois Tollway system to a private operator, Crain’s Chicago Business reported.

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, the General Assembly’s fiscal watchdog unit, voted to seek proposals from financial experts to determine how much a lease might earn the state, according to the business journal.

Leases involving the Chicago Skyway and Indiana Tollway brought in $1.82 billion and $3.85 billion, respectively, in the past year and a half. If the same multiple of 40-times revenue were applied to an Illinois deal, Illinois could gross $14.6 billion, according Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston), co-chairman of the commission.

“The Illinois Tollway is now more attractive than ever to investors,” said Schoenberg. The road system is “well-positioned to bring Illinois to address some of its most critical needs,” including paying pensions and leveraging federal transportation grants.

Despite recent action, many lawmakers are leery of leasing the Tollway, Crain’s reported, fearing that a private operator could make money only by boosting tolls above current levels. Others say the idea could pick up momentum, but not until after the general election in November.

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