Some Democrats in Springfield are pushing back against Gov. Bruce Rauner’s plan to save taxpayers money by partnering with a private business to build tollways.
Rauner’s plan for a public-private partnership to add separate toll lanes to a 25-mile stretch of Interstate 55 is meeting with resistance from some politicians. Before a public project using private dollars can begin, the General Assembly must approve it. State Rep. Robert Rita, D-Blue Island, said Illinois has entered into bad deals before, including the Illinois Lottery, the Chicago Skyway and the privatization of Chicago’s parking meters.
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“It was going to be a great benefit to the state, and there were numerous problems with each one,” Rita said.
State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Buffalo Grove, said she worries that if the partnership goes bad, lawmakers would be left to answer for it.
“I don’t really know whether it’s a good deal or a bad deal. We’ll just have to trust that everybody’s going to do the right thing, and that feels a little uncomfortable to me,” Nekritz told Illinois Department of Transportation representatives. “If this turns out to be a really bad deal for Illinois, that’s not going to just fall to you guys. That’s going to fall to us up here.”
Rauner said in February that a public-private agreement to add lanes to I-55 would save taxpayers $425 million in construction costs.
A spokeswoman for IDOT says the project is nothing like Chicago’s parking meter deal or other privatizations, which were just financial transactions used to generate quick cash.
The 25-mile stretch would be between I-94 and I-355 in the Chicago area.