Indiana and Illinois have reached an agreement in principal on how to construct and finance the Illiana Expressway, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation.
Each state's department of transportation plans to issue its own request for qualifications for its portion of the 47-mile toll road this fall as the next step in enticing private investors to help pay for the road, according to INDOT.
Indiana plans to request proposals for financing its portion of the road through what are called availability payments, said INDOT spokesman Wil Wingfield. Indiana currently is using availability payments to back the financing of the $763 million East End Crossing bridge over the Ohio River.
“We look forward to working with our partners at IDOT on this very important project to the entire region,” said Kendra York, public finance director of the state of Indiana.
The Indiana Finance Authority, where York serves as chief executive, could play a key role in raising money to build the Illiana Expressway. For the East End Crossing Bridge, the Indiana Finance Authority issued $641 million of private activity bonds.
In availability payment deals, a private investment group pays the upfront costs for design and construction of road or bridge. In exchange, the state guarantees it will make annual payments to the investment group for making the bridge "available" to the motoring public. For example, in the case of the East End Crossing, Indiana will pay investment group WVB East End Partners about $32.9 million per year for allowing motorists to use the bridge.
Tolls can be used to make availability payments. But if tolls do not cover the full availability payment, then the state must find other funds to make up the shortage.
The Indiana portion of the Illiana Expressway will run about 10 miles from near Lowell to the state line while the Illinois section will be about 37 miles long and end near Wilmington, Ill.
“The Illiana project is a ‘win-win’ for both Illinois and Indiana and will result in a reduced financial burden while creating much needed infrastructure," said Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider. "It will save millions for Indiana and Illinois taxpayers while producing huge economic benefits for both states, and that is good news.”
INDOT's announcement comes two weeks before the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning is scheduled to vote on including the Illiana Expressway in its long-term transportation plan. If the agency votes against that action, it will present a significant roadblock to obtaining federal funds for the road.