Jobs Homes Autos For Sale










Is tollway board up for grabs?
By Marni Pyke | Transportation Writer
print story
email story
Published: 5/10/2009 12:03 AM

Send To:

E-mail:
To:

From:

Name:
E-mail:

Comments:

With with two-thirds of the members of the Illinois tollway's board of directors facing expired terms, the ball's in Gov. Pat Quinn's court to put his own imprint on the agency.

The board numbers nine appointed directors on the tollway plus ex-officio members Quinn and Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig.

The terms of Directors Carl Towns, James Banks, Steven Harris and James Roolf expired May 1, although they will remain serving until successors are appointed.

This also has been the case with Directors George Pradel and Betty-Ann Moore, whose terms officially ended in May 2007. Naperville Mayor Pradel and Libertyville Township Supervisor Moore were not reappointed by disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (which isn't necessarily a bad thing) and have continued on the board.

It appears all directors want to stay on the Illinois State Tollway Highway Authority board.

"Our board members are committed to serving the drivers of northern Illinois by enabling the Illinois Tollway to continue day-to-day operations and ensuring that the ongoing $6.3 billion Congestion-Relief Program delivers benefits to customers as promised, on schedule and on budget," tollway spokeswoman Joelle McGinnis said in an e-mail.

Among those seeking reappointment is Moore.

"I hope to have the opportunity," she said. "At least I hope to serve through the completion of projects in Lake County."

As for Quinn's next step, well, he's asked interested candidates to apply on a Web site - http://appointments.illinois.gov.

(I'm tempted to apply myself. I drive on the tollway everyday. I come from a two-transponder household and I could use the $31,426 yearly compensation directors get.)

"The governor is looking at all boards and commissions," spokeswoman Katherine Ridgway said. "He will make appointments with all deliberate speed."

"All deliberate speed," however, isn't good enough for House Speaker Michael Madigan. The powerful Chicago Democrat Thursday called for a "fumigation" of state government and a review of anyone appointed by Blagojevich and our other disgraced Gov. George Ryan. It's a move that could result in thousands losing jobs.

The fireworks in Springfield are unfolding in the context of criticisms by Quinn and other legislators who want an overhaul of the tollway. The agency has been on the hot seat for delays in mailing violation notices to drivers that resulted in thousands facing hefty fines. In addition, the tollway was dragged into the scandal involving Blagojevich's corruption arrest because of a new $1.8 billion construction program. The FBI says the ex-governor was caught on wiretaps in 2008 trying to extort campaign donations from a highway contractor in connection with the project. Blagojevich claims his innocence.

So what will happen with the board? Political scientist Kent Redfield says it's all about leverage.

With Quinn eager to get agreements with lawmakers over his budget and ethics reforms, he can use his appointment powers as a way to get concessions, said Redfield, a professor with the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

"When something happens, it will be in the context of horse trading," Redfield said. The tollway "is a big concern of suburban legislators and the Republicans."

A second chance?

After Blagojevich's arrest, tollway officials put their $1.8 billion Congestion Relief Phase 2 program on hold. It would have built carpool lanes on existing tollways, created a new interchange at I-57 and the Tri-State, fixed the problematic interchange at I-290/Route 53 and I-90, and allocated $400 million for unspecified interchange construction.

To pay for the road work, the agency planned to borrow money and raise tolls on trucks in 2015.

The hiatus has got people like Don Schaefer of the Midwest Truckers Association thinking.

"It's six years down the road but still the clock is ticking," Schaefer said.

The question for the trucking industry is - if the plan's in limbo, should the toll hike be rethought?

"It's a chance to re-engage," said Schaefer, who contends Congestion Relief 2 was foisted on truckers with no notice.

"I think it's smart to take a second look at an ill-conceived concept."

McGinnis said the program will continue to be on hold as the tollway reviews the program with Quinn's staff, the Illinois Department of Transportation and receives input from transit and transportation planning agencies. "The financial component analysis is dependent upon completion of the program review," McGinnis said.

Schaefer did give kudos to the agency for its Spring Cleaning program, which allows people facing late fees on toll violations to pay reduced fines. And speaking of the reprieve - the deadline is June 30.

Flotsam and jetsam

• Pace has appointed members to its new Chicago and Suburban ADA committees to advise the agency on issues facing riders with disabilities. Suburban committee members include: Brian Barnes, Richard Bascomb, Ray Campbell, Robert F. Cary, Georgia Cawley, Krista Erickson, Michael Feddersen, Pam Heavens, David E. Jackson Sr., Mark Marino, Pat Peters, Ilene Rosenberg, Rosemarie Soria, Stephanie Whitus Walsh and Brenda Zeck. For more information about the program, contact www.pacebus.com.

• The CTA has extended the comment period for people to react to a proposal to extend the Yellow Line from its terminus at the Dempster Street in Skokie to Old Orchard Mall. For information, go to www.transitchicago.com and look for the Alternatives Analysis Studies tab or call (888) 968-7282.