Mundelein again backs Route 53 extension plan

Only one trustee remains a holdout

A little more than a decade ago, some Mundelein officials were among the loudest voices opposing the proposed extension of Route 53 into Lake County.

At a village board meeting in July 2000, then-Mayor Marilyn Sindles said the proposal would “create a nightmare for the people of Mundelein.”

That same night, Trustee Ed Sullivan — on the board then for about a year — angrily alleged the highway would create “an environmental disaster” for the town.

“I'll oppose it more seriously than I've ever opposed anything in the past,” Sullivan said.

With the passing years, however, the plans and the attitudes have changed.

On Monday, the village board authorized Mayor Steve Lentz to sign a letter to regional transportation officials that supports the long-awaited road project.

It's Mundelein's second public proclamation of support for the Route 53 extension. In 2011, the board unanimously approved a resolution backing the proposal.

The current Route 53 proposal calls for a four-lane road with a 45 mph speed limit and intersections with existing roads. It would stretch from Lake-Cook Road to Route 120 — through Mundelein, Long Grove and other communities — and then east and west along Route 120 in the Grayslake area.

The latest cost estimates exceed $2 billion. Tolls could help fund the project, officials have said.

Five of the village board's six trustees approved the letter. The only holdout was Sullivan, who called the proposal “a pipe dream.”

“They'll never do it,” he said.

In an interview before Monday's board meeting, Sullivan said he likes the current concept for the road extension because it's not a traditional, restricted-access highway that would split Mundelein in half like the original plan.

But he criticized the idea of charging tolls on an open road.

“You can't collect tolls at a stoplight,” Sullivan said.

The village's 2011 proclamation urged state and county officials to widen roads that would connect to the highway extension. Lentz's new letter doesn't mention the other roads.

Trustee Terri Voss wants to see the highway extended, but she believes the larger roads that run east and west through the county and would serve as interchanges with the highway, such as Route 60/83, Route 176 or Hawley Street, should be widened first.

“They don't have the capacity for more (cars),” Voss told the Daily Herald. “There's no point in putting 53 through unless you do that.”

Trustee Ray Semple long has been a fan of a Route 53 extension. The need is evident to anyone who gets caught in traffic while trying to drive between Cook and Lake counties at rush hour, he said.

“Anybody who says it isn't needed doesn't travel,” Semple said.

Still, Semple said he doesn't know if he'll ever be able to drive on the highway. He hopes his kids will some day.

“(I) have my fingers crossed that it will take place,” Semple said.

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