Illinois bill to create more PPPs

A bill passed in both houses of the Illinois state legislature would enable the Department of Transportation and Toll Highway Authority to develop agreements with the private sector for transportation projects across the state, but prohibits the lease or transfer of existing roads.

New legislation passed in both houses of the Illinois state legislature would allow transportation projects across the state to be procured as public-private partnerships (PPPs).

The bill, called the Public-Private Partnerships for Transportation Act, is awaiting the signature of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat.

If signed into law, the legislation would allow the Illinois Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority to develop PPP agreements with private operators and developers for the design, financing, and operation of transportation projects. 

The legislation prohibits the Toll Highway Authority from entering into any PPP agreement that would lease or transfer roads that are currently “open to vehicular traffic,” according to a copy of the bill posted on the Illinois General Assembly website. It also prevents the Toll Highway Authority from using PPPs for adding lanes, ramps or renovations to existing roads.

Tom Morsch, managing director at PPP consultancy Scott Balice, which was recently acquired by advisory firm PFM Group, said he was encouraged by the new developments in Illinois.

“I think as a starting point here this is a step in the right direction,” he said. He added that he had seen more development in PPPs in the US in the past year as such projects come to fruition in large US states like Florida, California and Texas. 

He said he saw a growing consensus “across the country” that PPPs are an “acceptable project delivery mechanism”.

The legislation comes at a time when several other states have shown increased interest in PPPs. In Texas, legislators recently passed a bill enabling PPPs for 11 transportation projects across the state, and the Virginia Department of Transportation officially opened its PPP office this week.

Thus far, Illinois had not had broadly-enabling PPP legislation, according to Morsch.

Last year, however, Quinn signed into law a measure allowing for a PPP to construct a toll road between Illinois and Indiana known as the “Illiana” Expressway.