Local input up next for Route 53 finance recommendations

  • Local leaders discuss suggestions such as a Lake County gas tax to finance a large funding gap for the Route 53/120 proposal.

      Local leaders discuss suggestions such as a Lake County gas tax to finance a large funding gap for the Route 53/120 proposal. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer, October 2014

  • Michael Talbett, chief village officer in Kildeer, left, and David Brown, public works director/village engineer in Vernon Hills talk Tuesday before the Route 53/120 finance committee meeting. They represent their communities on the panel.

      Michael Talbett, chief village officer in Kildeer, left, and David Brown, public works director/village engineer in Vernon Hills talk Tuesday before the Route 53/120 finance committee meeting. They represent their communities on the panel. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/21/2015 5:37 AM

There were few surprises Tuesday as potential ways to pay for the long-discussed extension of Route 53 into central Lake County moved another step toward a final recommendation.

A roster of suggestions including a 4-cent-per-gallon gas tax, a so-called "value capture" on new commercial development near the proposed tollroad, and new and increased tolls on I-94 appeared to have the general consensus of the Route 53/120 finance committee. It has been working since October 2013 on a recommendation to the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

No vote was taken and the discussion involved more clarification and fine-tuning of various aspects of the draft report. It outlines ways to generate $745 million to $993 million to help fund the project estimated to cost $2.35 billion to $2.65 billion.

Some of those avenues, such as establishing a gas tax, would require action by state lawmakers. Even if all the suggestions were taken, the funding gap would be $1.36 billion to $1.9 billion, which the tollway system will be asked to cover.

Meanwhile, several finance committee members planned to discuss the draft report with their respective villages or organizations before a vote on a final recommendation expected next month.

"The compelling part of this process will be starting now," said Bradley Leibov, president and CEO of Liberty Prairie Foundation.

The value capture portion of the recommendations involves a "sustainable transportation fund" in which 25 percent of the new value of commercial development a mile from the road and two miles from intersections would be set aside to pay for a long-term environmental stewardship fund pegged at $51 million.

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George Monaco, representing Round Lake, said that would be a hard sell in his community. Supporters emphasized it would not be an additional tax but a method to capture a portion of any new development that may surface because of the new road. Other taxing districts would received 75 percent of that increase under the recommendation.

"It's no harm, no foul to the taxing districts," said Stephen Park, representing Gurnee. "It would never be salable if it was put in as an additional tax."

The 4-cent-per-gallon gas tax also appeared to have strong support. Cook, DuPage, Kane and McHenry counties have a gas tax, but Lake County does not. Half the money would go toward the Route 53 project and the other half for other transportation needs.

The finance committee worked separately but in tandem with a land use panel, which has been studying the potential impact of the road in various aspects of surrounding area. All involved agree there are challenges to face before the project comes into clearer focus.

"As this becomes more and more real, people will have questions that are more urgent," said Michael Talbett, chief village officer in Kildeer.

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