What will Rauner do with open tollway board seats?

  • Changes to the tollway board would come amid a massive building program.

      Changes to the tollway board would come amid a massive building program. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Kristi Lafleur, executive director of the Illinois Tollway Authority.

      Kristi Lafleur, executive director of the Illinois Tollway Authority. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/1/2015 8:43 AM

With five Illinois tollway directors' terms expiring today, it's Gov. Bruce Rauner's move.

The governor, who has authority to appoint toll board members, had no comment Thursday, but it's expected he'll put his own stamp on the agency soon.

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The tollway authority is in the midst of a massive $12 billion road building program and crucial decisions on projects such as the extension of Route 53 into Lake County lie ahead.

Directors whose terms end today are Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, Chicago Heights Mayor David Gonzalez, banker Mark Peterson of Lincolnshire, DuPage County Forest Preserve Commissioner Jeffrey Redick and Shorewood businessman Terrence D'Arcy.

It's unclear how a power shift would affect tollway policy and leaders including Executive Director Kristi Lafleur.

The governor's reach is being already felt at the tollway board, which did a 180-degree turn April 23 on a 21-year-old agreement that required contractors to hire union workers. Rescinding the agreement reflected the wishes of Rauner, who is trying to reduce organized labor's influence in the state.

Weisner, who voted against nixing the agreement, doesn't expect to be reappointed.

"It's not uncommon for governors to put people in top spots that they know and have perhaps worked with in the past ... but I know the governor has left a couple of (executive) directors in top spots in state hierarchy," Weisner said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

As part of reforms following the Blagojevich era, Gov. Pat Quinn in 2009 appointed tollway Chair Paula Wolff, who was also picked by Rauner as a transition adviser this year.

Lafleur, Quinn's former deputy chief for economic development and recovery, was hired by the board in spring 2010.

One of the current administration's most significant moves was the 15-year building program funded by a 2012 toll increase.

Projects range from widening the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90) to extending the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway (Route 390) east to O'Hare International Airport to an interchange at the Tri-State Tollway and I-57, which is complete.

"The whole capital program's been remarkably well done and well planned," Metropolitan Planning Council Vice President Peter Skosey said. "They said what they were going to use the money for and that's what they're using the money for."

There are nine toll board members and two ex officio members. Terms are for four years and until a successor is appointed and confirmed by the Senate.

No more than five directors can be from the same political party as the governor.

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