Illiana Expressway in hunt for private investors

2013-03-14T11:36:00Z Illiana Expressway in hunt for private investorsKeith Benman, (219) 933-3326

Illiana Expressway planners have an aggressive schedule for bringing in private investors to build the road, releasing a timeline Thursday calling for a public-private partnership deal to be signed by the end of 2014.

That is even before all land acquisitions would be completed for the almost 60-mile toll road stretching from Interstate 65 in Indiana to Interstate 55 in Illinois.

"We are starting that outreach now," Illinois Department of Transportation Project Manager Steve Schilke told about 60 municipal officials from both states in Peotone. "We are seeing what that interest is around the country."

The Illinois Department of Transportation already has put out a notice of intent to hire financial adviser Ernst & Young, of New York, and law firm Mayer Brown, of Chicago, to arrange a deal. Indiana, which already has a significant public-private road project under way, retains KPMG, of Montvale, N.J., for the job.

The two state transportation agencies hope to host an industry-wide forum in April or May to attract and gauge interest for the Illiana Expressway, Schilke said. A similar meeting for the Ohio River bridges projects between Indiana and Kentucky drew more than 500 interested bankers and financiers.

The route chosen by planners for the Illiana Expressway starts at I-65 just south of 153rd Avenue and runs between Lowell and Cedar Lake before heading almost directly west to Wilmington, Ill., where it would join I-55.

Local officials at the meeting Thursday at the Will County Fair Atrium also received updates on north-south roads slated for closure if the Illiana Expressway is built.

Following a February meeting with emergency responders, police and Lake County officials, several roads slated for closure are now on the "open" list planners are putting together.

Under the version released at Thursday's meeting, Cline Avenue, Holtz Road, and Mississippi Street will remain open. The three had been slated for closure. State Line Road, Parrish Avenue, Morris and Mount streets also remain open.

"What you have seen from then until now is major changes in Indiana," Schilke said. "That's what this process is all about."

There also will be changes in the 2,000-foot wide corridor that now makes up the expressway route as it is narrowed to a 400-foot corridor, Schilke said.

A public meeting is tentatively scheduled for April 16 in Indiana to give people updates on the road. Two days later, a similar meeting is tentatively planned for Illinois. The exact time and place is yet to be determined.

Landowner meetings held last month attracted 850 people, but up to 50 percent of land owners within the corridor have yet to come in for a meeting or give their names to IDOT or the Indiana Department of Transportation, Schilke said.

South Lake County resident Ted Gross, who lives right next to a planned interchange on Ind. 55, said the Illiana Expressway planning process continues to come up short. After Thursday's meeting, he said the closing of critical roads is just one example of the harm the expressway will do.

"As far as I'm concerned, all these road closings, when it comes to ambulances, police, school buses, it just takes away all your entrances and exits," he said.


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