A bill that paves the way for a public-private partnership to design, build and operate the $1.1 billion Illiana Expressway through Indiana and Illinois unanimously passed the Indiana Senate 42-0 on March 2.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is expected to sign the bill in the next two weeks. The 25-mi expressway � about 10 mi in Indiana � would provide an east-west bypass for truck traffic and commuters south of Chicago by linking I-65 in Indiana with either I-57 or I-55 in Illinois.

The bill authorizes the Indiana Finance Authority to search for a private investor to finance the design and construction of the roadway, as well as operate the road as a toll way. Construction is expected to begin in 2017.

�The expressway is an old idea that is finally coming to fruition because of a study completed in July 2009 by Cambridge Systematics (Cambridge, Mass.), finding that truckers and commuters would likely use the expressway,� says Dennis Faulkenberg, president of APPIAN Inc. of Indianapolis, a lobbying group for the Build Indiana Council and Indiana Construction Association.

Privately-financed construction and operation of roadways is not a new concept in Indiana. In 2006, the legislature approved the $3.8 billion lease of the Indiana Toll Road to a Spanish/Australian consortium. At the time, it was the biggest toll road lease in the country and was one of several sweeping changes in the state�s transportation funding system.

Faulkenberg says there is some opposition to the Illiana measure, generally coming from communities in the proposed path of the expressway.

�The legislature held a remote hearing in Crown Point, Ind., and the 600 or so in attendance were about evenly split,� Faulkenberg say. �The opponents weren�t opposed to building the road, they just wanted it built somewhere else.�

The Illinois legislature has yet to authorize a public-private partnership for the expressway, which must occur before the project can advance. At least 15 mi of the expressway would be located in Illinois.