- The Illinois Tollway is backing a $4 billion plan to widen the most congested portion of its roadway, according to the Chicago Tribune.
- The proposal is up for a vote before the Tollway Board on Thursday. If the board authorizes the improvements to the 22-mile segment that passes near O'Hare International Airport, the work would add a fifth lane in each direction and incorporate "flex lanes" on inside shoulders for buses and emergency vehicles.
- The Tollway said the project would not demand an increase in tolls if the system could improve toll collection and lower debt service on bonds. If approved by the board, construction would begin in 2020 and last approximately two years.
The portion of the tollway in question sees approximately 155,000 vehicles per day. This newest plan to widen the highway is a revision to a previous, smaller $2 billion proposal to rebuild the road without adding new lanes.
In December, the Tollway authorized $1.7 billion in infrastructure spending as part of its 2017 budget. The increase in funding will go toward $374.5 million of new toll roads, creating a western entry into O'Hare. The additional money will also pay for $587 million of capital projects, $405 million of debt and $336 million of maintenance and operation costs.
In October, the Tollway announced that the capital project portion of the infrastructure budget would be used for SmartRoad upgrades to I-90, reconstruction of I-294 and an expansion of the I-PASS system. All of this is part of the 15-year, $12 billion Move Illinois program, which is financed by bonds and tolls and does not use any federal funds.
Because the Tollway relies mostly on user fees and bonds, it's in a good position to ride out state-level disagreements over how to fund transportation. Last year, the state almost shut down $2 billion worth of Illinois Department of Transportation projects when lawmakers reached an impasse in budget negotiations. However, a stopgap bill allowed road and highway construction to continue.