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Chicago privatizes Skyway toll road

City says $1.8 billion deal will help pay off large debts

CHICAGO -- Chicago has reached a $1.8 billion deal to let a private consortium operate the Chicago Skyway toll road -- a trailblazing agreement the city said will save it money on maintenance and allow it to pay off millions of dollars in debt.\nThe deal marks the first time a U.S. toll road has been privatized, said Mark Florian of the investment bank Goldman Sachs, which advised the city.\n"If we use the funds wisely, we can protect our taxpayers and our city's financial situation for both the short term and the long term," Mayor Richard M. Daley said Friday.\nCintra-Macquarie, a Spanish-Australian consortium, put in the winning bid to operate the Skyway for the next 99 years. Under the lease, the consortium will be allowed to double the $2 toll to $4 over the next decade, and keep raising it thereafter.\nThe city will use the receipts from the lease to pay off the Skyway's existing debt of about $400 million and other city debts, and create a reserve fund.\nFormally known as the Chicago Skyway Toll Bridge System, the nearly eight miles of elevated roadway links the Indiana Toll Road with an expressway that leads into the Loop business district.\nThe Skyway opened in 1959 and was a money loser until the 1990s, when it became a convenient route into the city from points east.\nLast year, it served 17.4 million vehicles and generated $39.7 million in toll revenue.

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