Illinois voters oppose tollway lease

Less than two weeks after gubernatorial candidate Jim Ryan floated the idea of leasing out the state’s 286-mile tollway system, a poll of likely Democratic and Republican voters found that both groups overwhelmingly oppose the idea.

A poll of Democratic and Republican voters in the state of Illinois has found that both groups strongly oppose the idea of leasing the state’s 286-mile tollway system, striking a blow to a privatisation proposal floated by gubernatorial contender Jim Ryan.

The poll, conducted by The Chicago Tribune and local television station WGN-TV, found that Democrats opposed the idea 72 percent to 14 percent, with 13 percent undecided. Republicans opposed the idea 65 percent to 16 percent, with 19 percent undecided.

The poll, conducted between 16 January and 20 January, surveyed likely voters in the state’s 2 February primary election. Higher tolls were the number one reason why voters in both groups opposed the idea: 71 percent of Democrats said tolls were likely to increase if the tollway was privatised, as did 68 percent of Republicans, the Tribune wrote.

At a press conference on 5 January, Ryan floated the idea of leasing the tollway as a way to raise money, according to the Tribune. Ryan pointed to the example of the neighbouring Indiana Toll Road, which was leased by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels in 2006 for $3.8 billion.

A 2006 consultant report commissioned by Illinois’ General Assembly estimated that the state could receive up to $23.6 billion by leasing the tollway system for 75 years, according to the Tribune. The estimate was based on an assumed increase in tolls of 50 percent every 20 years.