Two counties balk at leasing Indiana Toll Road

Commissioners in two northern Indiana counties are balking at a plan to lease of the Indiana Toll Road.

Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder told the Elkhart Truth on Tuesday there wasn't enough time to consider the proposal, since preliminary bids are due Thursday.

The LaGrange County Commissioners also have rejected the proposal, the Herald Republican of Angola reported.

However, the proposal still might have life. Yoder said that during a conference call Monday, Lake County officials expressed interest in participating and pitching in money to help cover preliminary planning costs. He didn't identify the officials.

Steuben County Attorney Don Stuckey said LaPorte County asked each of the seven counties that the Toll Road travels through to contribute $10,000 toward a preliminary bid. Stuckey said final bids are due next August.

Private tollway operator ITR Concession Co. filed for bankruptcy protection in September, citing more than $6 billion in debt. A federal bankruptcy court judge has given the Chicago-based company permission to sell the 75-year lease it holds on the road to help pay back its creditors.

Investment bank Piper Jaffray of Minneapolis recently delivered a report to LaPorte County that shows the toll road's cash flow could support a public entity bid on the lease and produce enough cash to benefit surrounding counties.

County Commissioner David Decker said having a not-for-profit established by the seven counties that the 157-mile road passes through bid on the lease would be better than allowing another private firm to gain control of the road.

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