A 25-mile portion of Interstate 55 could be expanded with new "managed lanes" using private sector investment.


Gov. Bruce Rauner is supporting the idea of a public-private partnership to fund a $450 million project to add one lane in each direction on the Stevenson Expressway between I-355 and the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago.


Among the options being considered is charging drivers to use those lanes, with the toll increasing when congestion is at its worst.


"So we can manage the lanes, manage the traffic, and folks at key times who absolutely have a critical priority to get through that congested traffic quickly have the option to do it on a managed basis," Rauner said.


The proposal doesn't specify a maximum toll which could be charged. Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said that would be part of the contract negotiations with the private investor funding the project, but said another transportation group, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, did offer specifics in a similar plan.


"When CMAP looked at this as a solution a number of years ago, they looked at... from I-94 down to 355 at about the $2.75 range for that 25-mile stretch," Blankenhorn said.


Blankenhorn said construction could begin next year and be finished in 2019.


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The first step is for state lawmakers to pass a resolution allowing IDOT to ask for private bids for the project. House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) is one of its sponsors and also a frequent user of the Stevenson, though he said traffic often compels him to use other routes into the city.


"Sometimes taking the side streets into the city of Chicago are not exactly in your best interest, but I'm forced to do that almost every morning," Durkin said.


The proposal has the support of State Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago), who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee. He said using private investment is the most fiscally responsible way to fund the project.


"Allowing IDOT to enter into this public-private partnership is a godsend, not only for the people around here, but also for all the taxpayers," Sandoval said.


This would be the first such project of its kind in Illinois, though the state did pursue a public-private partnership with the Illiana Expressway plan, which has been suspended.