Route 53 extension, tolls among ideas to stop drivers from being sacked if Bears move

Just in time for Halloween, ghoulish visions of traffic mayhem on highways and roads leading to a Chicago Bears stadium at Arlington Park are rising.

"I can tell you that the infrastructure needs surrounding this project are going to be massive, and they are going to be incredibly expensive," engineer Mickey Snider of Arlington Heights cautioned.

And he wasn't the only Daily Herald reader with insight into problems and solutions if the football team finalizes a deal to relocate to the suburbs.

"Time to again consider, once and for all, the north extension of Route 53," Kevin Davidson of Wauconda suggested.

Now, resurrecting the Route 53 project from the dead would be truly terrifying for folks who fought it.

But there are many who still want the road built north of its Cook County line terminus to relieve Lake County gridlock.

However, the main obstacle to the expansion - who's going to pay for it - remains unresolved.

"Route 53 needs major work. And - could it be converted (into a) toll road?" asked Buffalo Grove's Bob Johnson.

Interesting question. Unlike the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois tollway could raise funds from tolls at strategic points leading to the stadium.

But no one's snapped the ball to the agency yet.

"The tollway has not been involved in any discussions," spokesman Dan Rozek said. "We defer any questions about Route 53 to IDOT."

In addition to a stadium, the team plans a massive commercial and residential development at the former racetrack.

To manage traffic, the Bears are considering two underpasses at Route 53 and Northwest Highway connecting with parking, improvements to ramps at Euclid, and a pedestrian underpass at the Arlington Park train station or a grade-separated crossing fans could use.

"The price tag for what are, essentially, tunnels beneath a major, six-lane expressway and a combination of a major urban arterial and a major rail and commuter arterial will easily, without question, reach into nine figures," noted Snider.

Wayne Shust of Palatine asserts "there is no benefit to the communities of Rolling Meadows and Palatine that border the site and only downside costs and major inconveniences to the residents of these communities.

"Route 53 does not extend past Lake-Cook Road. Has anyone considered how access from the north to Route 53 will be impacted? When the racetrack was operating, there were long lines of (vehicles) impeding traffic at the Euclid and Northwest Highway exits and entrances for crowd sizes of less than 10,000 on racing days."

Public transit is key, says Mundelein resident Peter VandeMotter. "I would include game-day (Metra) tickets along with season tickets, similar to Ravinia. Obviously extra service, including special trains," he said.

Metra has a stop at Arlington Park on the Union Pacific Northwest Line.

VandeMotter added that "since many fans would be coming from the western suburbs, Metra should work with UP to access its outer belt line (between Elmhurst and Des Plaines) for special trains from UP West Line stations to Arlington Park, without having to change trains."

One more thing

The Route 53 extension was put to rest by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2019.

Democratic state Sen. Melinda Bush of Grayslake described the project as "a political and financial dead end."

"We've known for more than a generation that there isn't enough public support or money to build it, which is exactly why the tollway abandoned the project and discussions are now underway on how to convert the land into a public asset," she said, adding that "the last reason we should do it is to benefit ... the McCaskeys. That would amount to one of the most unconscionable acts of taxpayer-funded corporate welfare in state history."

Gridlock alert

Expect "Chicago Fire" stars and traffic delays in Waukegan through 1 a.m. Thursday. IDOT will close the Amstutz Expressway between Genesee Street and Greenwood Avenue to allow filming of the NBC drama.

Detours will be posted.

You should know

Along with physical improvements to Terminal 5 at O'Hare International Airport, the city has approved concessions including Sparrow Coffee, Butcher and the Burger, Bar Siena, Hampton Social and other businesses to locate in the expanded space. Work on Terminal 5 wraps up later in 2022; this week Delta Air Lines moves to 10 new gates at the facility.

Tollway leaders end Route 53 extension study today

With Route 53 extension dropped, what happens to $54 million in land?

How would you get to a Bears game in Arlington Heights?

Bears to pay $200,000 of Arlington Heights' consultant costs

What Bears envision for $5 billion 'magic' makeover at Arlington Park

The Chicago Bears' conceptual site plan for redevelopment of the 326-acre Arlington Park property shows a stadium district to the northwest and a mixed-use district to the southeast. Courtesy of Chicago Bears
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