Lake County takes case for Route 53 to tollway board
With opponents of a Route 53 extension into Lake County on the move, proponents lobbied the Illinois tollway to give the project some momentum Monday.
Lake County Administrator Barry Burton urged tollway directors to support an environmental impact study of the expansion project. Such reports are detailed analyses of major projects that are an essential step before any construction starts.
The tollway is paying for studies of Route 53 and convened an advisory group of elected officials, businesses, and environmental organizations that reached a consensus in 2012 on pushing the road north.
Initial plans call for a four-lane, 45 mph parkway with environmental features aimed at not harming wetlands and prairie along the route. But a funding gap of nearly $2 billion -- even with tolls of about 20 cents a mile -- still stands in the way and the tollway has not decided whether to adopt the project.
Recently there's been pushback against the proposed highway from towns including Hawthorn Woods, Kildeer, Long Grove, Mundelein and Round Lake. Concerns have ranged from financial to control over local land use.
The project and environmental impact study "is very important to Lake County. To do nothing is not an option," Burton said.
"If Route 53 is not built, what's the alternative?" Lake County officials contend the extension will reduce congestion on local roads and spur economic development.
Tollway directors took no action on Burton's request and have not laid out a timetable for a vote on the project.
"I'm impressed by the fact they built such a strong consensus there," tollway Chairman Robert Schillerstrom said. He referenced local support for Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355) in DuPage County years ago and noted "that part's been missing in Lake County. It is there now."