Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=202805
Story Retrieval Date: 6/19/2013 3:58:43 AM CST
In an effort to improve transparency, the Illinois Toll Highway Authority has begun webcasting construction bid openings on its website.
Illinois Tollway drives home new plan for bid transparency
Over the years the Illinois Toll Highway Authority has seen its share of legal issues. But the organization’s latest initiative highlights its desire to restore the public’s trust.
In an effort to improve transparency, the Tollway agency is webcasting construction bid openings for future projects. The move is designed to better inform the public about construction costs and who is bidding by making the information more accessible.
“In the past, bid meetings were open to the public, but anyone interested in attending had to come to the Tollway’s headquarters in Downers Grove,” said Kristi Lafleur, executive director for the agency. “Webcasting construction bid openings allows the public and construction companies competing for work on the tollway to follow along with our public selection process.”
The first two bid openings took place March 1 and March 6; a third will be webcast March 13.
The Tollway Authority has been plagued by controversy in the past, and Lafleur said that making more information public is a top priority.
“For the past two years, the Illinois Tollway has worked diligently to transform the way we do business and restore the public’s trust by increasing transparency and accountability at every level of our agency,” Lafleur said.
One of the bigger scandals took place in 1997, when former Tollway executive director Robert Hickman was convicted of $240,000 theft, conspiracy to commit theft and official misconduct by illegally selling Tollway land. More recently, the Tollway came under fire when it issued contracts to an engineering firm that donated money to former governor Rod Blagojevich from 2002 to 2006. The pay-for-play schemes netted Blagojevich more than $144,000 in donations.
“The Tollway, over the last 10 to 15 years, has had some serious unethical and illegal activities,” said Steve Schlickman, executive director of the Urban Transportation Center at UIC. “Taking a leadership role in transparency is a good governmental thing.”
The three projects bid on at Tuesday’s opening were for a new salt dome and salt-dome repair at Tollway I-294 and I-88, roadway and bridge construction on Tollway I-294, and fuel-system rehabilitation system wide.
The bids are under review and will be presented to the Finance Operations Committee March 14 and to the Tollway Board of Directors for approval March 22, Lafleur said.
Last year the Tollway Board of Directors created a $12 billion program called Move Illinois: The Illinois Tollway Driving the Future. The capital program is a 15-year plan and the Tollway expects to award more than $600 million worth of contracts in 2012.