How the Route 53/120 extension could be funded

Group eliminates some options

A panel studying ways to fund a proposed Route 53/120 extension into Lake County has eliminated some possibilities and will gather details on others in coming weeks.

Tolling and/or widening the existing Route 53 south of Lake-Cook Road essentially was dropped from consideration Tuesday by a committee of about two dozen local officials and others, who will make a recommendation to the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority.

“That's pretty much off the board,” said Doug Whitley, co-chair of the finance committee. Pursuing that would add more layers to an already complex review process, and rebuilding the road would be too expensive to serve as a revenue source for the extension, he added.

Establishing special service areas along the route or increasing sales taxes in Lake County were regarded as low-priority possibilities, and also will not be pursued as the committee continues its work.

But that still leaves a fairly broad menu of selections to pay for the road, including a required local contribution toward the $2.87 billion proposed project.

“Our job is to develop a funding strategy that we can recommend to the (tollway) board in good conscience,” Whitley said to start the meeting at the Lake County Central Permit facility in Libertyville.

Congestion pricing, increasing the toll at the Waukegan plaza and/or adding tolls at Route 132 and tolling at the Illinois border will remain in play, as will establishing a 4-cent per gallon gas tax in Lake County.

Other possibilities include a so-called value capture component, which would establish tax increment financing districts on new nonresidential development. There, a portion of the higher property tax generated as the value of the land increased would be used to help pay for the road.

“Let's figure out a mix that provides the best opportunity ... so that we can fund the project with the least possible impact on our residents,” said Steve Park, a Gurnee village trustee who represents the village on the panel.

The group unanimously decided to form three working groups focused on key areas.

The value capture group would define the structure of the method to be used and determine how much revenue would be generated; another would recommend a tolling strategy in Lake County; and the third would deal with how to pay for and manage an $81 million environmental stewardship fund.

Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur attended the meeting and praised the group for making “tremendous progress.”

Efforts continue to find potential savings in the estimated $450 million to $600 million cost of innovations to be incorporated in the new road.


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