Chicago’s private road future

Chicago Blackhawks StadiumWhat we need is a matchmaker. Is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel the man for the job?

Getting private investment money into a serious relationship with roads is  a very frustrating process. So much so that it hasn’t really happened yet to any significant extent. The money is out there, and investors want to invest it. And roads can make money. But its just not that simple.

Emanuel is the man behind last spring’s launch of the Chicago Infrastructure Trust. The core idea — and it was almost all idea and very little machinery – was to get private companies to profitably invest in the city’s public infrastructure projects. They make money and Chicagoans get infrastructure that public dolars couldn’t afford to build.

That’s the model and it sounds easy enough. But the two sides are still far apart. Emanuel’s Trust may may be the breakthrough model. It certainly is looking as if a lot of private money is watching it, and waiting.

Next City’s Tanveer Ali has a valuable piece on the Trust’s progress such as it is, and its chance to throw open the floodgates of private dollars. Well, at least nudge them open a little bit for a start.