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Rauner, Blankenhorn call for resolution to get I-55 enhancements started

Governor's office again pushes for toll lane to ease congestion

McCOOK – A little more than a year ago, Gov. Bruce Rauner announced a plan to add some space for motorists on an often congested section of Interstate 55 between interstates 355 and 90/94.

Through a public-private partnership, the plan would add managed lanes to I-55 to alleviate the congestion, with tolls charged in the new lanes.

A 2011 state law allows the Illinois Department of Transportation to build, finance, operate and maintain highway projects using public-private partnerships, as long as the General Assembly adopts a resolution in support of the project.

On March 27, Rauner joined Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn and other area officials to urge the General Assembly to take action on such a resolution.

According to a news release from Rauner’s office, in order to keep the project on track as a public-private partnership, the General Assembly must pass a resolution by the end of March or a “historic opportunity to invest in the state’s infrastructure will be lost.”

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said in the release that a resolution he introduced more than a year ago has been ignored by Democrats. The resolution cited a need to improve travel times and safety.

“I will be urging my Democratic colleagues to act quickly this week and pass my resolution so that we can move forward and bring some much needed relief to the motorists who depend on I-55,” Durkin said in the release.

The 25-mile stretch that would be widened under the proposal would add a tolled express lane in both directions of I-55 between I-355 and I-90/94, "resulting in hundreds of construction jobs and thousands of additional long-term jobs," according to the governor's office. The project is estimated to cost more than $400 million.

“There is already significant interest in the project from local and international firms, with 17 firms participating in a response to a formal Request for Information filed by IDOT last year,” the release stated.

Blankenhorn said in the release that investors interested in improving transportation in Illinois have said they need a decision on I-55 now.

“A public-private partnership is our one chance to deliver this project. The public has waited long enough. It’s time to act,” he said.

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