Small companies look to take part in tollway project
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY email@example.com April 3, 2014 8:50PM
Over a hundred small firms attend the Partnering for Progress that would allow for small businesses to partner with IDOT to help construct the Illiana Corridor which would extend I-55 to the Illinois/Indiana state line for the Illiana Corridor Partnering for Progress at Tinley Park Convention Center, Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 in Tinley Park | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 5, 2014 8:55AM
The chance to help build a new tollway through the Southland brought more than 150 mostly small companies to the Tinley Park Convention Center on Thursday, all hoping to get a slice of the Illiana Expressway project.
Billy Vinci, of Sanchez Sawing Services in Markham, hopes to land a paving contract. For him, it would mean “a lot of people working” and the potential to keep the business growing.
Looking to haul concrete was Jamal Robinson, of Myka Trucking in Pembroke Township in Kankakee County.
“We are in a high unemployment area. We’re not leaving. We’re trying to grow. We want to reach out to our youth and give back to our community. The only way to do that is to create jobs,” Robinson said.
The Illinois Department of Transportation held the outreach event for what officially are known as disadvantaged business enterprises — minority- and female-owned firms — to connect them with the private developers that will build and operate the tollway through a private-public partnership. The federal government requires that a certain percentage of the work go to such businesses.
“I am absolutely thrilled by the turnout. It far exceeded my expectations,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said. “We have firms in Illinois that are hungry. This is really about bringing opportunities to Illinois businesses.”
For Schneider, Thursday’s turnout underscored the importance of the Illiana project, the state’s first public-private partnership for a major road project. The tollway will link Interstate 55 near Wilmington with I-65 near Lowell, Ind., and primarily is designed to reduce truck traffic on I-80.
“It’s a big deal. (It’s) is a different way of getting things done. I would love to be part of something that is a first,” said Claire Williams, of Environmental Design International in Chicago. “This would be a resume-building job.”
The partnership means that IDOT will select a team to finance, build and operate its portion of the toll road for 35 years, getting the toll revenue. The tollway is estimated to cost between $800 million and $900 million and would open in three years, according to IDOT.
IDOT has selected four development teams as finalists, one of which will be awarded the contract this fall. All four made presentations and networked with the business people who attended Thursday’s event.
For the small companies, there are lots of jobs available on the Illiana Expressway — design and engineering work, environmental mitigation, asphalt, landscaping, lighting, signage and traffic signals. The project will have 91 bridges, 30 box culverts, 14 million cubic yards of earth work and 17 million pounds of structural steel, according to IDOT’s figures.
“They are breaking it into little pieces so smaller businesses can handle it and to make sure local guys are working,” said Pam Ackerman, of Workzone Safety Inc. in Crest Hill, which does traffic controls. “This would be a nice long-term contract. It would hold me over for a few years.”
The Illiana Expressway has been on the fast track since Pat Quinn became governor in 2009, Schneider said.
“He firmly believed in it and wanted it done quickly to create economic opportunities for the Will County region,” she said, adding that they hope to begin construction next year.
IDOT expects to finish its final environmental impact study this spring and receive federal approval to proceed with its segment of the tollway. IDOT then will acquire the land needed for the road and handle the relocation of utility lines.
The four finalists to construct and oversee the Illinois portion of the project are:
Illiana West Mobility Partners, which operates the Chicago Skyway and the Indiana Toll Road.
Illinois Corridor Connection Group, which includes T.Y. Lin International. TYLI has worked on the interchange project to connect Interstates 57 and 294.
Illinois Mobility Partners, which includes Fluor Enterprises, Lane Construction Corp. and Granite Construction Co.
WM Illinois-Illiana Partners, which did the Des Plaines Valley bridge on Interstate 355 and includes Gallagher Asphalt and K-5 Construction.
The Indiana Department of Transportation will select its own development team to design and build its portion of the tollway.