Editorial: A more transparent, inclusive Route 53 effort

  • Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comRoute 53 looking North at Lake-Cook Road.

    Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comRoute 53 looking North at Lake-Cook Road.

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted10/26/2014 5:01 AM

For 50 years, the battle line over the future of Route 53 has been drawn at Lake-Cook Road.

The history of the proposed northward extension into central Lake County has been one of division, with supporters saying it would relieve traffic congestion and opponents arguing it represents an environmental disaster.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The project's on-again, off-again past and the often less-than-transparent planning process have contributed mightily to the anxiety.

Enter a new incarnation of the Route 53 extension, one that has a different feel. Issues are hashed out in public meetings and environmentalists and others have a seat at the table.

There is much work to be done and many difficult issues to address before any decisions are made on whether to build the road, but we support the approach.

Even traditional opponents, such as the villages of Hawthorn Woods and Long Grove, and several environmental interests, are actively engaged in the process.

What such a major project deserves and needs, and what has been lacking in previous attempts, is a fully transparent and inclusive study.

It's unlikely everyone will agree with every detail or even the final project. But in having their viewpoint considered, participants likely will have some influence on the outcome.

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Starting today, we examine the proposal to build a Route 53 extension and accompanying improvements on and near Route 120 as a unique toll road.

Our two-part series looks at options being considered and the issues an advisory panel must address before sending a recommendation to the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority Board for a decision on whether to proceed. That will likely happen next year.

What's clear is the past impediments to building the road still exist -- how to pay for it, how to protect Lake County's rich environmental offerings and how to control the development growth that will surely be drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

Also to be determined is the exact path and configuration of the road and how much disruption it will mean for residents, communities and businesses along the corridor.

None of these are insignificant hurdles. How they are addressed will determine whether local community leaders and environmentalists remain on board or defect and again oppose the project.

Our comments shouldn't be mistaken for endorsement of a particular proposal; they reflect our recognition that relief is needed from the road congestion that now hinders travel and commerce.

However imperfect the idea of a Route 53 extension is, a transparent and inclusive process is the right approach to determine if this is a road project the region can live with.

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