Sen. Kirk talks flooding, transportation in Lake County visit

In his first work-related visit to Lake County since returning to Capitol Hill this year, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk met with a small group of suburban leaders Wednesday to discuss the impact of the recent floods.

The session at the Lake County Division of Transportation headquarters in Libertyville was closed to reporters, but afterward Kirk told the Daily Herald about how his expectations for devastating floods have changed.

“A 10-year flood is something that happens almost every year,” the Highland Park Republican said.

Kirk was particularly impressed by Lake County emergency officials' estimates for the rising waters of the Des Plaines River and the Chain O' Lakes, which he said were accurate to within a third of an inch.

Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor, a former staffer in Kirk's congressional office, appreciated the compliment.

“At the end of the day, that work has a tremendous impact on our residents' lives,” said Lawlor, a Vernon Hills Republican. “It makes it easier for them to protect their homes and (anticipate) how it will affect their communities.”

In addition to the flooding, Kirk and the group discussed suburban transportation needs, especially the long-proposed Route 53 extension into Lake County. That project seems to have new life after years of virtual inactivity.

Flooding and highways might not seem to be natural fits, but Lawlor made the connection.

“In flood events, people notice how they are limited moving through the county,” he said.

The county's high-tech PASSAGE traffic-management system helped get needed resources and manpower where they were headed, too, Lawlor said.

Lawlor estimated the county's flood damage tab at $4.8 million, and it still could rise. If the damage reaches a $17.6 million threshold statewide, Illinois would be eligible for federal disaster relief, Kirk said.

  U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, right, Lake County Chairman Board Aaron Lawlor, left, and Lake County Emergency Management Coordinator C. Kent McKenzie look over maps of flooded areas during a meeting at the Lake County Division of Transportation in Libertyville Wednesday. Steve Lundy/
  U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk talks with Lake County Chairman Board Aaron Lawlor during a meeting Wednesday at the Lake County Division of Transportation in Libertyville. Kirk met with local leaders to discuss recent flooding and transportation issues. Steve Lundy/
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