Tollway director: South suburbs deserve construction jobs

One of the Illinois’ tollway’s newest directors delayed votes on more than $16.5 million in projects Wednesday to make a point about the need to create jobs in the south suburbs.

Illinois State Toll Highway Authority Director and Chicago Heights Mayor David Gonzalez thinks agency contractors need to hire people not just from DuPage, Will and north Cook Counties.

“All I’m looking for is a fair share,” Gonzalez said at a finance committee meeting. “We have a 15 to 16 percent unemployment rate in the south suburbs; we’re big users of the tollway.”

He also said the tollway needs to set a higher bar for contracting with firms that are minority owned.

“We’re heading into a huge capital development program and we have to make every effort to increase minority participation and also to create jobs and be representative of the south suburbs,” Gonzalez said.

Putting off a vote on the contracts could mess up construction schedules, tollway Engineering Chief Paul Kovacs said. However, it’s possible the board of directors could take up the issue at a Thursday meeting.

“We’ll have to resolve these issues and outstanding questions,” Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said.

Tollway administrators said the agency is working to bolster hiring of minority businesses and part of that has included reducing contract sizes so that smaller companies can bid for them, not just mega-firms.

Among the businesses put in limbo are: Woodridge-based V3 Companies of Illinois with a contract to rebuild portions of west I-88 for $2.1 million and Teng & Associates of Chicago with a contract to provide construction services for south Tri-State repairs for $2.5 million.

The tollway is ramping up for a $12 billion reconstruction and improvement program that includes widening I-90, extending the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway east and building an interchange at the Tri-State Tollway and I-57.

Gonzalez is one of five new tollway directors appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn this fall. Another newcomer David Peterson of Lincolnshire chaired the finance committee meeting but longtime Director James Banks was absent.

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