Tollway budget promises plenty of construction zones next year
Daily Herald file photo The tollway is gearing up to build an eastern extension for the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway.
The Illinois tollway's 2013 preliminary budget is big on road building with steep increases in construction spending for projects such as expanding the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90).
Officials on Thursday outlined a $1.5 billion budget proposal, up from 2012's projected costs of $1.1 billion, although actual spending this year should be closer to $929 million because of deferred work.
This means drivers can expect construction-related delays in 2013 as the tollway ramps up its $12 billion Move Illinois program with major work expected on I-90 near Elgin.
"The vast majority of the spending — $922 million — is going to capital improvements, largely on the tollway system itself or technology improvements to support better customer service," Illinois State Toll Highway Authority Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said.
"We're excited about that, but it is a lot more activity so people are going to have to keep their eyes open and pay attention and be safe as they drive through construction zones."
Priorities in 2013 will include widening the eastbound I-90 from the Elgin Toll Plaza to Route 47, building an interchange at the Tri-State Tollway (I-294) and I-57 in the south suburbs, repairs on the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88), and rehab work on Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355).
Some construction is also expected on the extension of the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway east to the airport and creation of a western bypass. Although the tollway will pay for most of that project, $300 million was supposed to come from surrounding towns and DuPage County. That $300 million has been a significant hurdle but officials said Thursday they were optimistic the federal government could help out with congestion relief and air-quality grants.
Move Illinois is paid for with revenue from higher tolls instituted on Jan. 1. The agency also expects to borrow $1 billion in 2013 to help pay for the work. The loan won't mean another toll increase, Lafleur said.
"All of our assumptions for this capital program — paying for this program and the improvements and the debt service on these bonds — we structured into the revenue and toll increase that's already been enacted," she said.
The capital budget for 2013 is $922 million, a big jump from estimated expenditures of $419 million this year.
The maintenance and operations budget for 2013 is $283.4 million compared to $267.5 million in 2012.
Nearly three-quarters of that $283.4 million pie go to the following areas: $106.4 million in salaries or about 38 percent; $54.3 million in contractual services including consultants, contracted maintenance and credit card fees or about 19 percent; and $48.5 million in pension, social security and Medicare payments or about 17 percent.
Pension costs have escalated in the last decade officials said, reflecting a statewide trend that's been a political hot potato for Illinois lawmakers.
"We are interested in working more broadly with the state and its leadership on anything they can do to help with those pension costs. We've had a 140 percent increase in our pension contribution in the last 10 years," Lafleur said.
Other costs in 2013 include debt service.
A budget public hearing is set for 6 p.m. Nov. 13 at the tollway headquarters, 2700 Ogden Ave., Downers Grove, and an open house will take place from 3 to 6 p.m. at the O'Hare Oasis on the Tri-State Tollway.
A webinar can be accessed at http://www.illinoistollway.com/about-the-tollway/finance/budgets.
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