Kane County's costs to build the new Longmeadow Parkway toll bridge over the Fox River are now $20 million cheaper thanks to a redesign of the project unveiled this week. But even with a lower price tag, the need for a toll will remain.
County staff members conducted a value engineering study when the project entered the second phase of engineering last summer. A group of outside engineering experts invited by the county to brainstorm suggestions for cutting both the short- and long-term costs of the bridge came up with several suggestions, including a couple of ideas to shrink the width of the bridge.
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The new version of the bridge will have two lanes in each direction with a 4-foot median in between. The narrow median is similar to what exists on the recently installed Stearns Road bridge near South Elgin.
The new version of Longmeadow, which will be built near the McHenry County border, will also use open piers instead of closed piers to reduce the use of concrete and long-term maintenance costs.
Along those same lines, the bridge will be built with weathering steel, which eliminates the need to paint and repaint the bridge over its lifetime. Weathering steel develops a natural, rust-like color when exposed to the elements over the long term.
The proposed 2015 budget for the Kane County Division of Transportation contains $20 million for Longmeadow. That's only a portion of the price to make the toll bridge a reality.
The latest estimate, reflecting the new $20 million of savings, put the total construction cost at about $97 million.
That doesn't include additional costs of up to $20 million to purchase the land the bridge will sit on or the engineering or planning costs.
The total cost for the project now stands at about $135 million.
In comparison, the Stearns Road bridge ultimately cost about $165 million.
The Stearns Road project took more than 20 years to build.
At one point, in 2005, the price tag for Stearns Road was pegged at $120 million, according to news reports from that time.
No matter what the final cost of Longmeadow Parkway proves to be, local taxpayers caught a break with the announcement in June that Kane County will receive a $45 million contribution of state funding for the project. That includes $5 million from the Kane/Kendall Council of Mayors.
Construction could begin as soon as next year, according to the county's budget plan. Once built, the project will span nearly six miles from Route 62 across the Fox River and onto Huntley Road.
The actual price of the toll for the bridge has not been set. A 2009 feasibility study determined a toll of $1.50 during peak traffic times would be ideal.
The county board formally accepted the results of that study in 2010.
With no funding contribution expected from McHenry County, the toll is seen by Kane County officials as way of getting McHenry County residents who will use the bridge to help pay for the cost.