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Friday, Sep 22, 2017

* Tribune

Oakbrook Terrace wanted to put red light cameras at a busy but relatively safe intersection. IDOT must approve cameras on state routes in the suburbs, and it said no: Cameras are for boosting safety, and the intersection’s “low crash rates” did not support a need for cameras.

In just a few months, that no would turn into a yes.

* There may be lots of reasons why IDOT’s denial turned into an approval, and the paper has a long story on it which you should read all the way through. But one aspect is Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Martin Sandoval, the Safespeed red light cam company (which has contributed thousands to Sandoval’s campaign) and a project Gov. Rauner really, really wants built

The emails that were released showed Sandoval contacted [then-IDOT Region One Director John Fortmann], and Fortmann told his peers that Sandoval brought up a Rauner administration proposal to add an extra toll lane to I-55 — known as the I-55 Managed Lanes Project — a proposal that, then and now, awaits legislative approval.

“He indicated that while unrelated he wants to work with the administration on other issues such as I55 Manage lanes (sic) but is not getting the type of cooperation on his issues that he would like to see,” Fortmann wrote to his peers.

In a recent interview, Fortmann told the Tribune that he didn’t recall writing that and, in general, didn’t feel Sandoval was threatening to withhold support of IDOT if it didn’t approve the Oakbrook Terrace camera permit.

That happened in 2015. Safespeed got its red light cam, which the Tribune claims its revenues from violations “could approach $5 million a year just from that intersection.”

Fast-forward to February of 2016, when Sen. Sandoval appeared with Gov. Rauner at a press conference in support of the Managed Lanes Project.

On Wednesday, Rauner even gave Sandoval a shout-out during a press conference, calling him a “good friend of mine,” who, Rauner said “stood with me and said ‘Let’s do a privately financed new lane both ways on I-55′… Everybody wanted it… the leaders in the House wouldn’t approve it.”

* On the bright side, this story may show that Rauner can get involved in the traditional horsetrading of governance. Some, however, may not view this so positively.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

10 Comments
  1. - TheAloda - Friday, Sep 22, 17 @ 1:54 pm:

    “good friend of mine” just means he’s connected not made. Now if he had said “a friend of ours”….


  2. - wordslinger - Friday, Sep 22, 17 @ 1:57 pm:

    So a $5 million tax on motorists in OBT from an unnecessary red-light camera and in exchange private interests can make money charging tolls (tax) on I-55.

    Can you smell-the-meat-a-cookin?


  3. - anon2 - Friday, Sep 22, 17 @ 2:24 pm:

    This camera producing so much revenue at an already safe intersection reinforces the perception that redlight cameras are about revenue, not safety. It certainly appears to be in this case.


  4. - Romeo - Friday, Sep 22, 17 @ 2:36 pm:

    “…Rauner said “stood with me and said ‘Let’s do a privately financed new lane both ways on I-55′… Everybody wanted it… the leaders in the House wouldn’t approve it.”

    –Anyone who has driven on 55 doesn’t want a private lane for the rich. Why not just expand it? Really needs an update.


  5. - illini97 - Friday, Sep 22, 17 @ 2:49 pm:

    “Everybody wanted it… the leaders in the House wouldn’t approve it.”

    I don’t think the word “everybody” is well understood by the Governor.


  6. - Stooges - Friday, Sep 22, 17 @ 3:00 pm:

    The Tribune says Safespeed gets the revenue from the fines paid for violations at the intersection. Seems like the municipality should get that revenue since the camera acts as a policeman and catches red-light runners. Anybody have more info on the arrangement between Safespeed and the city?


  7. - Six Degrees of Separation - Friday, Sep 22, 17 @ 3:43 pm:

    There would not be a shortage of people who would pay an extra dollar or 2 to whiz by the cars and trucks on the slow lanes of I-55 in the early morning or late afternoon, and I suspect most of them wouldn’t be classified as “rich”. As to who should build and how to finance, there are good and bad examples of public or private investment all over the world. Only recently has the US gotten into the privately financed toll road game; lots of outfits have gone belly-up on their promises, some have made it worthwhile. The I-55 project is a better bet than most, due to its high traffic and relatively low cost of adding a lane.


  8. - Gianni Bigud - Friday, Sep 22, 17 @ 3:48 pm:

    The I-55 toll lane project is frankly insane. No way it can work without seriously limiting driving for other, non-paying customers. Illinois has too many tollways as it is.


  9. - Dee Lay - Friday, Sep 22, 17 @ 3:53 pm:

    One more reason to ban red light cameras in Illinois.


  10. - anon - Friday, Sep 22, 17 @ 4:29 pm:

    This issue highlights the big problem in Illinois that Politics trumps all even the best engineering practices.


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