TINLEY PARK | Some of the largest contractors on the planet told local small businesses Thursday how they can get their own piece of the $1.5 billion Illiana Expressway project.
"We are so excited and pumped about this project," said Illinois Secretary of Transportation Ann Schneider in welcoming small contractors to the disadvantaged business forum for the Illiana Expressway. "But what's exciting me even more is the chance for local businesses here in Illinois to compete for this work."
The Illiana Expressway would run 47 miles from Interstate 65 just northeast of Lowell to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill. It has a projected cost of $1.5 billion. It will be operated as a toll road.
Illinois and Indiana are developing the toll road as a public-private partnership, seeking private investment teams to help finance, design, build and operate it.
Before the forum held at the Tinley Park Convention Center, Schneider said IDOT wants the winning bidder for the expressway project to hire disadvantaged businesses for 20 percent of the engineering work on the expressway and 25 percent of the actual construction. She said a hiring goal for the 35-year maintenance and operation of the expressway has yet to be determined.
Disadvantaged businesses cover a wide range of small enterprises, but often are women- or minority-owned. In recent years, veteran-owned business are also sometimes included in that category.
In all, 177 small business registered for Wednesday IDOT event, with 113 of those already identified as disadvantaged businesses.
They heard presentations from the four investment teams that have been named as finalist to bid on the Illiana Expresway job when a request for proposals is issued later this year. First up to the microphone on the stage at the convention center was Cintra, a Spanish firm that is the operator of the Chicago Skyway and Indiana Toll Road.
"We hope to have the opportunity to add this exciting project to our portfolio," said Tony Elkins, Cintra U.S. commercial director of corporate and business development.
Paul Martinez, of partner firm Ferrovial Agroman U.S. Corp., called the IDOT goals for hiring disadvantaged businesses "lofty" but pointed out Cintra has had 370 such firms working as subcontractors on three Texas road projects.
Cintra has 70,000 employees work on such projects in 15 countries around the world. Total Cintra revenues last year were $11 billion.
Next small business owners heard from ACS Infrastructure Development, a company with 160,000 employees in 50 countries and total annual revenues of $50 billion. In addition, small business owners heard from a group headed by Meridiam Infrastructure and another headed by Fluor Enterprises.
The Indiana Department of Transportation also has named Cintra, ACS, and Meridium as finalists for the request for proposals it will put out for the Indiana portion of the road. Both IDOT and INDOT want to issue the request for proposals in late spring or early summer. Proposals will be due back in the third quarter and a contract award made in the fourth quarter.