Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn are seeking investors for the proposed Illiana Expressway. It's an important sign we're well on the way to a new major highway.
"Today all roads lead to the Illiana," Pence told hundreds of investment bankers in Rosemont last week. "We look forward to your input and counsel. We pledge our partnership for progress with our neighbors to the west."
Quinn, like Pence, understands the important of this new expressway.
"We understand what the future of our economy is all about," Quinn said. "It's about logistics. It's about distribution. It's all about the heartland, and Indiana and Illinois are the heart of the heartland."
This is a road needed for both states.
It is not popular with people along the proposed route from Interstate 65 just outside Lowell to Interstate 55 near Wilmington, Ill.
Building the road will bring an estimated 9,000 construction jobs. Development along the route, where service stations, restaurants and other businesses will spring up to provide services to travelers, will bring even more.
Neither state has the money to build this 46.8-mile highway, so a public-private partnership, constructing a toll road, is the only real choice. The private company operating the road would be given a lease of 35 to 50 years or more, depending on how it's financed.
Under one option, private investors would finance construction, and the state would make periodic payments to investors. Under the other scenario, a private company would build the road and keep all tolls collected until the lease expires.
Weigh the proposals carefully, but make sure the expressway gets built.
This is a vital missing piece of the region's infrastructure, part of the outer ring road envisaged by Daniel Burnham more than a century ago.
The road is expected to ease traffic on U.S. 30 and the Borman Expressway, siphoning traffic off those congested east-west routes.
This road must be built.