Tollway puts Route 53 on front burner

An advisory group will start tackling the difficult issues of how to pay for a proposed Route 53 extension north and what its ultimate design should be.

The Illinois tollway is leading an effort to expand Route 53 from Lake-Cook Road to Route 120 and on Tuesday reconvened a Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee that includes community leaders, industry representatives and environmental organizations.

The project envisions a four-lane, 45 mph parkway that's sunken below grade in places to accommodate forest preserves and marshes along the route, which stretches from Lake-Cook Road to Route 120. A Route 120 component would extend east to the Tri-State tollway and west to Route 12.

The group agreed in May 2012 to adopt the parkway plan but questions about paying for it and technical details of the design remained.

Planners have been operating under a 20-cents a mile assumption for the parkway, which will cost from $2.3 to $2.7 billion to build. But tolls on the extension itself won't be enough, financial estimates show.

Tuesday's meeting resulted in the development of finance and land use committees. In addition to the revenue issue, there's a need for coordinated planning among the towns along the project, officials said.

“There's a lot of decisions that need to be made regarding how to raise revenue,” Lake County Chairman Aaron Lawlor said. Because some those choices could include tolling access points that are free now such as Routes 120 and 176, “we need to build consensus,” said Lawlor, co-chair of the BRAC.

“Now the next phase begins in earnest,” tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said. “We've got to look at the impact of this large roadway. The goal is to achieve a balance in the region — where will the housing be? Where will the transit be? How will the retail versus commercial space work?”

Aaron Lawlor Republican Candidate for Lake County board District 18.
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