* Mayor Rahm Emanuel talks about his opposition to the privately financed Illiana Expressway…
Emanuel said he doesn’t consider the project a benefit. “I don’t see Illiana as in the self-interest of the city of Chicago, from a competitive standpoint,” he said last week. Emanuel did not elaborate, but experts point to the importance of the thriving and competitive freight industry in Chicago and the surrounding region.
Not to mention O’Hare and Midway because of the proposed expressway’s proximity to Peotone. Chicago mayors have always guarded O’Hare, but keep in mind that Emanuel is attempting to privatize Midway, and that’ll probably be more difficult if a third airport is a likely prospect.
* A key vote is expected later today…
The final decision will come this evening. That’s when a little-known but powerful panel, the Policy Committee of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, is scheduled to vote on whether to endorse the proposed Illiana Expressway, moving it to the top of the region’s transportation priorities, or to place the south suburban road in a lower category, something that would make it ineligible for federal funding and likely kill it.
At this point, neither side appears to have a win sewn up. As of last night, one well-placed observer had it eight votes in favor, eight against and three undecided. In other words, a dead heat, depending on who actually shows up.
* Sen. Mark Kirk recently penned an op-ed in favor of the expressway…
Public-private partnership procurements are complicated. They take time to put together, with significant input from private industry regarding their structure and terms. Halting the Illiana Expressway’s progress now eliminates this option.
It may be that the market determines that the highway is not a good investment. If that is the case and the project does not make financial sense, then it should not move forward. To be sure, managing financial risk to the taxpayer should be the No. 1 priority for any public-private partnership.
But expecting a ready-made deal before a project is allowed to pursue private investment is a recipe for failure and hamstrings the very innovation that public-private partnerships promise.
Our infrastructure in Illinois is aging, and we don’t have the resources to keep up with demand. The Illiana Expressway is an opportunity to explore a new way to address how we invest in transportation, and one that I am excited to see move forward.
* My buddy Greg Hinz is an ardent Illiana foe and had this to say to Kirk…
Mr. Kirk really does run the risk of badly tarnishing his green shield. Building roads to nowhere to suck jobs and people out of the central area is antithetical to everything good urban planning ought to be about.
And throwing around money we don’t have — hey, Senator, remember all those speeches you made about how Illinois is bankrupt? — won’t impress any true fiscal conservative.
I seriously doubt that if the investors take a pass that the road will be built. But investor interest is reportedly quite strong, so I’m not too worried about costs. And this is a toll road, remember.
* Greg and I have shared e-mails back and forth about the Illiana, and this was a main contention of his that he also wrote about in his blog…
Above and beyond that is the fact that not only CMAP’s integrity but also the core future of the Chicago area is at stake in this decision. For once, the area has an agency that is trying to prioritize spending decisions so that the most needed projects get the money. But if Mr. Quinn gets his way on this one, the message will go out loud and clear that the bad old days are back, that dividing up the government pie is a free-for-all without rules in which every side just leans on their favorite pol to get their way.
You gotta admit, Mark Kirk and Pat Quinn make an odd couple. Even in Illinois. Just what are you up to, Senator?
…Adding… An insider with some knowledge of the roll call says he believes the pro-Illiana forces have lined up 11 votes. Ten are needed to win. Stay tuned.