Who pays for Route 53 extension?
Members of an Illinois tollway advisory council tossed around ideas to fund a Route 53 extension Thursday, noting that sharing the cost regionally instead of locally will ease the pain.
The tollway has yet to decide if it will adopt the pricey project, which would lengthen Route 53 north 12 miles from Lake-Cook Road to connect with Route 120.
Tolls on the proposed roadway would pay for only a fraction of the cost, leading to an estimated gap of $2.47 billion.
Financing ideas include levying project-specific gas or sales taxes in Lake County or creating special local taxing districts, such as a tax increment financing district or special service area (SSA).
But an SSA, which usually involves a tax on a narrowly defined area, "is a tough sell," Hawthorn Woods Mayor Joseph Mancino said.
"People look at it as a tax increase ... that's one hurdle."
The tollway increased rates in January 2012 to pay for a massive $12 billion improvement program that includes the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway extension and an interchange at the Tri-State Tollway and I-57.
The Route 53 project didn't make it onto that list although the tollway is covering costs related to planning. Several officials said the entire toll system should pitch in for the Route 53 extension.
"This is a road that will affect and benefit everyone in the region," Buffalo Grove Mayor Jeffrey Braiman said, adding that the current situation is "a regional problem that needs a regional solution."
"There has to be a way for the entire region to pay for this," former Lake County Chairman David Stolman said.
Other possible Route 53 revenue includes: adding tolls on the Tri-State Tollway at Route 132 and the Wisconsin border; increasing the Waukegan toll; or tolling the existing part of Route 53 between Lake-Cook Road and I-90, which several Cook County mayors oppose.
Plans call for a four-lane, 45 mph road with tolls of about 20 cents a mile.
Drivers don't want to pay exorbitant tolls, but "residents will pay if it reasonably reduces their driving time," Hainesville Mayor Linda Soto said.
The group will present their findings so far to the tollway board later this month, said Illinois Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Doug Whitley, who is co-chairing the advisory council.
The funding solution should involve a variety of approaches, he said. "The reality is there has to be a local contribution to make it happen."
Quoting from a historical source, Whitley added, "taxation is the art of plucking the most feathers from the goose with least amount of hissing."