Schillerstrom: Route 53 expansion could do great things for Lake County
After several years on the sidelines, Bob Schillerstrom's eager to get back behind the wheel at the Illinois tollway.
Gov. Bruce Rauner appointed the former DuPage County chairman and Naperville attorney as tollway director along with three other newcomers Friday.
The agency is in the midst of its busiest year ever with a $12 billion, 15-year construction program well underway.
But for many northwest suburban drivers, it's what the tollway isn't doing -- yet -- that's crucial. The agency is expected to decide this year whether to undertake an extension of Route 53 north into Lake County.
The project faces a more than $2 billion shortfall. Schillerstrom said he needs to learn more about the plan.
"I look forward to sitting down with (Lake County Chairman) Aaron (Lawlor) and leaders in Lake County to see if there's a way to come up with an affordable solution to build that road. I believe it will do great things for that county, much as I-355 did for DuPage County."
Asked if Rauner backs the expansion, Schillerstrom said, "I know the governor is pro-infrastructure and a fiscal realist. He's not going to build anything, unless there's a pragmatic, realistic way of paying for it."
As DuPage chairman, Schillerstrom advocated for a project that's part of the building boom -- an extension of the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway east to the airport.
"To be able to be involved again and help shape it and complete it is exciting," Schillerstrom said.
"I truly believe it is a great project."
But Schillerstrom's vision included a western terminal at O'Hare, not the modest entrance, parking lot and buses to existing terminals that are planned now.
"We envisioned a western access with full access and seamless movement between the western terminal and eastern (part of O'Hare). That remains to be the goal if we are to maximize the opportunity for it to be one of the pre-eminent transportation centers in the world."
Schillerstrom is a partner at Ice Miller law firm and a former Republican candidate for governor.
Rauner's tollway picks, announced Friday, include Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson, Lake County Board Member Nick Sauer and banker Joseph Gomez of Northfield.
Rauner reappointed Chicago Heights Mayor David Gonzalez.
Directors who weren't reappointed include Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, banker Mark Peterson of Lincolnshire, DuPage County Forest Preserve Commissioner Jeffrey Redick and Shorewood businessman Terrence D'Arcy.
Annual stipends for directors are $31,000.