One of Kane County's top construction priorities received a ho-hum reception from the local business community last week as representatives from local chambers of commerce revealed skepticism about the Longmeadow Parkway.
The parkway is somewhat controversial because the current plan calls for a $1.50 toll during rush hours and $1 during off-peak times to pay for the $117 million project. Once complete, the parkway would extend 5.6 miles from Huntley Road east through the Brunner Forest Preserve in West Dundee to Route 62. One of the more costly aspects of the plan is the creation of another bridge over the Fox River. The plan has been in the discussion and engineering phases for more than 20 years, which fueled the basis for some of the reaction from business leaders.
"Our perspective is that there hasn't been anything going on," said Melissa Hernandez, president of the Northern Kane County Chamber of Commerce. We have not had a lot of complaints about it, but when our people talk about it they really question whether or not it's going to happen. I haven't heard a lot of anticipation about it at this point. But it would be nice to see our impact fees being put to work."
The comments noticeably surprised several members of the county board's jobs committee. The county has already sunk about $28 million into the project, though no actual construction has begun.
"This is probably the most significant economic impact activity in your area of the county in probably 100 years," county board member Phil Lewis said to Hernandez. "We've invested millions of dollars into it."
Joe Henning, president of the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the divergent opinions suggest the county should ramp up its marketing of the bridge and outreach to local business owners.
"This might be a great opportunity to work with the chambers and work on a vision for the bridge several years out so we're not waiting for the bridge to open and then hearing the concerns of businesses after the fact," Henning said.
Hernandez said there is a general feeling that county officials are not in touch with the business community. Hernandez said her chamber has not supported the idea of a toll bridge for the Longmeadow Parkway because most people believe McHenry County residents will reap most of the benefits of the bridge.
County board members have generally supported the tollway concept because the parkway will be placed very near the McHenry County line. The idea is to have the McHenry County residents who will use the bridge be the primary payers of the toll rather than placing the burden on Kane County. There are no major federal or state funds currently promised for the project.