State may front $180 million for Illiana Expressway

2013-11-29T16:30:00Z 2013-12-09T10:51:25Z State may front $180 million for Illiana ExpresswayBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

The state of Indiana may pay upfront costs of as much as $110 million for the Illiana Expressway's construction and may make payments of up to $70 million to investors shortly after completion, according to a document provided to regional planners Tuesday.

The Indiana Department of Transportation provided the document at the request of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, which must decide in upcoming votes if there is enough money available to pay for the road.

The 12-mile Indiana portion of the Illiana Expressway has a $300 million estimated cost. INDOT remains confident some of the $300 million cost can be raised from private investors, according to the document.

Both states also will make annual payments to investors in the road so those investors can recoup their costs as well as be paid for operating the road. The document did not specify how much those state payments to investors will be.

But INDOT forecasts its own share of toll revenues by 2053 will be between $800 million and $1.3 billion. On the other side of the border, the Illinois Department of Transportation should be able to recoup between $2.4 billion and $3.8 billion.

The INDOT document states the cumulative value of the toll collections will exceed the total cost of of the availability payments over the same 35-year period. That means there could be some revenue left over for the states.

The Illiana Expressway would run 47 miles from Interstate 65 just northeast of Lowell to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill.

The document issued by INDOT on Tuesday is titled "Financial Demonstration of the Illiana Corridor Project, in Support of the NIRPC 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan." INDOT provided NIRPC with the document on the same day NIRPC issued its long-awaited staff report on the Illiana Expressway, according to NIRPC Executive Director Tyson Warner.

On Friday, Warner said the financial considerations are every bit as important as the broader policy objectives dealt with in the NIRPC staff report.

"The Illiana Expressway not only has to be included consistent with our 2040 plan, but there is also the fiscal constraint piece," Warner said. "There has to be assets available to pay for it."

INDOT and IDOT spokespeople were not available for comment Friday.

The estimated costs of the Illinois portion remains about $1 billion, according to the document. IDOT may have to spend up to $300 million on the expressway's construction and make payments to investors of up to $200 million as the road goes into operation.

Money from investors and perhaps other sources such as federal grants would make up the rest.

All of those amounts are more than state leaders had hoped for when they issued a request for information to investors earlier this year. That request asked for their ideas on both a toll revenue concession, where investors bear the most risk, and an availability payment concession, where the states bear most of the risk.

In their recent request for proposals from investors, both states dropped the idea of a toll revenue concession.

IDOT also is undertaking other significant projects in conjunction with the Illiana Expressway, but it has already rounded up the money for those.

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