Toll hike, county gas tax considered to fund Route 53
The resurrection of the Deerfield Toll Plaza, revised toll costs on the north Tri-State and a possible 4-cent gas tax in Lake County are among the ideas an advisory group favors to pay for building a Route 53 extension north.
The project that would extend Route 53 to Route 120 as a four-lane parkway faces a funding gap of up to $2.87 billion.
But county leaders seemed optimistic that cutting some expenses and instituting new tolls and taxes could reduce the shortfall and convince tollway directors to adopt the road.
"Our goal is to put together the most feasible and attractive package we can sell to our residents and to the tollway board," County Chairman Aaron Lawlor said Tuesday following a finance committee meeting of the Route 53 advisory group.
The Lake County fuel tax would be a flat 4 cents per gallon and could pay for issuing between $34 million and $45 million in bonds, estimates indicate. Half of the loan would be channeled to Lake County road improvements with priority given to the Route 41 corridor, officials said. Proposed toll increases and decreases on the north Tri-State between Golf and Willow roads could include reinstating the Deerfield Toll Plaza with fees of 95 cents for I-PASS users and reducing the Waukegan Toll Plaza rate from $1.40 to 95 cents. Tolls at the Edens Spur Plaza would be eliminated, planners suggested.
Other suggested north Tri-State Tollway tweaks include:
• Charging 95 cents at Grand Avenue (Route 132) to exit the northbound and enter the southbound lanes.
• Charging 30 cents at Milwaukee Avenue to enter the northbound and exit the southbound lanes.
• Charging 80 cents at Belvidere Road (Route 120) to exit the northbound and enter the southbound lanes; charging 30 cents to enter the northbound and exit the southbound lanes at Belvidere.
• Allowing drivers at Lake-Cook Road to enter the northbound and exit the southbound lanes for free; charging 95 cents to exit the northbound and enter the southbound lanes.
• Allowing drivers at Willow Road to enter the northbound and exit the southbound lanes for free; charging 70 cents to exit the northbound and enter the southbound lanes.
• Allowing drivers at Golf Road to enter the northbound and exit the southbound lanes for free.
Tollway consultants said the various rates had been calculated to try and provide an equitable charge per mile. It's projected the toll changes could generate between $400 million and $500 million over 25 years.
The Route 53 project has been debated for decades but in 2013, a tollway committee with Lake County leaders, environmentalists, business leaders and planners came to a consensus on the parkway concept.
The plan could be presented to tollway directors next week. The road expansion would be near some significant prairie and wetland areas. To offset noise, pollution and runoff, the plan calls for features such as the lower speed, drainage systems, and lowering the road.
Tollway planners said up to $200 million in cost-savings had been identified that did not sacrifice the environmental elements.