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Rauner announces plan for private-public partnership for I-55 widening

Gov. Bruce Rauner announced Thursday a plan to add managed lanes to Interstate 55 through a private-public partnership.

Tolls could be charged in the new lanes that would be added between interstates 355 and 90/94.

“Managed lanes are truly an expressway within an expressway – one more option that will make travel more convenient for everyone who uses I-55,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said in a news release. “This project signals a new way of doing business at IDOT and a model for improvements throughout our system.”

Will County Center for Economic Development President and CEO John Greuling said the "innovative financing" of a public-private partnership is a good approach to financing a transportation project, noting that Will County has examined that option with previous plans for the Illiana expressway and a south suburban airport.

"For us, it's very beneficial," Greuling said of the plan, which the CED supports. "Interstate 55 is a major thoroughfare for passengers and freight corridor for the whole area. Any way to add capacity to 55 will be a benefit to Will County."

The state is looking at different options for the lanes, including tolled and untolled carpool lanes and express tolling lanes. The state will complete federal environmental studies later this year before deciding how the lanes will be used.

The state plans to add at least one lane in each direction to the 25-mile section of I-55 that now handles 170,000 vehicles a day, according to the release from the governor's office.

A 2011 state law allows IDOT to build, finance, operate and maintain highway projects using public-private partnerships, as long as the General Assembly adopts a resolution in support of the project.

“By using existing resources to leverage private investment, we can build the type of infrastructure that allows Illinois to better compete in the 21st century,” Rauner said in the news release. “This is an innovative project that will create jobs, improve the region’s quality of life and show that Illinois is open for business.”

Rauner was joined by legislators in making the announcement of legislation to create the public-private partnership for additional I-55 lanes.

“Relieving the congestion on this stretch of I-55 must be a priority for the state of Illinois,” Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, of Lemont, said in the release. “However, we must also recognize the state must be creative in addressing our transportation challenges. This is an innovative approach that has been successful in other states and should be explored here.”

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