Dan Carden, Times of Northwest Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS | Gov. Mitch Daniels wants to create a bistate commission with Illinois to streamline planning and bidding for the Illiana Expressway.

Speaking to reporters Friday, the Republican governor said an existing bridge commission between Indiana and Kentucky could serve as a model for the Illiana joint venture.

"I think we want to do something like that: a mechanism for action," Daniels said.

The proposed commission would be headed by an executive director who'd be the contact person for potential private partners and financial backers. The director would be able to organize options and present them to officials in the two states, Daniels said.

On Tuesday, the Indiana Senate gave final approval to legislation allowing the Illiana Expressway to be built as a public-private partnership. A private company would pay to build the road and be allowed to collect tolls for its use. The state would own the land underneath the road.

The proposed Illiana Expressway is intended to relieve congestion on the Borman Expressway and spur economic development in the region by connecting Interstate 65 in Lake County with Interstate 55 near Joliet, Ill.

The governor has said he will sign the Illiana measure once it reaches his desk.

Similar legislation authorizing a public-private partnership for the Illinois side of the project is still working its way through the Illinois General Assembly.

Daniels said he called Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday to tell him Indiana is ready to go on the Illiana. Quinn also supports an Illiana Expressway.

In addition to the estimated $1 billion Illiana Expressway project, Senate Bill 382 also allows a public-private partnership to be used for construction of new Ohio River bridges in southern Indiana, an estimated $4 billion project. Both road projects are expected to create thousands of new jobs.

"The door is open, and we've got to get these long-sought projects up and running," Daniels said.