Toll for Longmeadow Parkway is hot topic for Kane Co. Board race

 
 
Updated 9/23/2014 5:34 PM
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  • Republican Maggie Auger faces Democrat Kevin Smith in the Kane County Board District 23 in November.

    Republican Maggie Auger faces Democrat Kevin Smith in the Kane County Board District 23 in November.

Making a winning connection with voters in Kane County's District 23 may require building an actual connection over the Fox River in the form of the Longmeadow Parkway. The two candidates for the county board seat differ on how big the bridge should be and how much it should cost drivers to use it.

Incumbent Republican Maggie Auger supports the current vision for the parkway. That includes a $1.50 toll to fund the $135 million bridge.

Her plan is to bring in as much outside funding as possible. With a $40 million letter of intent from the Illinois Department of Transportation already in hand, Auger said she's lobbied U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam and state Senators Mike Tryon and Karen McConnaughay to find federal and state funds to further shrink Kane County's costs for the parkway.

"There should be discussion about lowering the toll, getting rid of the toll, or paying down the bonds faster," Auger said. "If we get the $40 million from IDOT, I definitely think it would lower the cost of a toll. I'm not sure at this point if it would be eliminated."

Auger, of Algonquin, said some form of a toll still seems to be necessary at this point. The only other viable way to fund the bridge would be to use property tax dollars. Auger is committed to keeping the county's portion of the local tax levy flat for as long as possible. She also supports eliminating the toll once the bonds issued to build it are repaid.

"I would love to have a free bridge, but how do you fund it?" Auger said. "We definitely need a bridge. I'm 99 percent confident (the toll) will go away. I don't want to make promises that I can't keep. There's no guarantees in life."

Democratic challenger Kevin Smith said there should be no toll for the bridge. He pointed to the lack of tolls for the Red Gate and Stearns Road bridges as evidence that a bridge can be built with no tolls if the north end of the county gets the attention it deserves.

"The existence of a toll is going to discourage local residents from using it," Smith said. "And people tend to laugh when they say that the toll is temporary."

Smith, of Carpentersville, said he won't support the bridge in its current form, particularly the toll concept, unless an advisory referendum shows that's what people support. He is a fan of shrinking the bridge to just two lanes to cut the cost down to a bridge that doesn't need tolls. If use warrants a future expansion, the county already owns most of the land for that, he said.

"I say just get people across the river for now," Smith said. "The corridor will still be there. If you downsize to a simple two-lane bridge, then I think we're working inside of our means."

Smith also wants to start a discussion about building another bridge, near the Lake Marian neighborhood of Carpentersville, to fuel additional economic development in that portion of the county.

The election is Nov. 4.

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