Route 53 schism confronts tollway board

  • To extend or not to extend? Whatever the tollway board decides, someone will be unhappy.

    To extend or not to extend? Whatever the tollway board decides, someone will be unhappy. Daily Herald File Photo

Updated 9/24/2015 6:32 PM

Illinois toll directors got an earful on both sides of the Route 53 extension plan at a Thursday meeting.

Since 2011, the tollway has studied extending Route 53 into Lake County. One significant next step would be authorizing a costly environmental impact study.


Building a four-lane parkway up to Route 120 "represents a lot of positive things for Lake County ... It would reduce congestion (for a driver) by five hours per week," said Bill Baltutis, executive director of Transportation Management Association of Lake Cook.

"There is no consensus in Lake County for this road," Lake Forest resident Mary Mathews said. "As more people find out about the cost, financing and environmental damage, it is not going to be popular."

The tollway convened an advisory group of elected officials, businesses, and environmental organizations that reached a consensus in 2012 on pushing the road north.

The design is for a 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 -- continues to dog the road. The tollway board has not committed to adopting the plan.

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Proponents think the project will create jobs and economic development in Lake County as well as reduce traffic jams and gridlock on local roads.

"The extension will expand access and ease constant traffic congestion," said Sean Fitzgerald, president of the Construction and General Laborers' union Local 152 of Lake County. "Every morning there's a massive migration of vehicles inching slowly to I-94."

Recently there has been pushback from towns including Hawthorn Woods, Kildeer, Long Grove, Mundelein and Round Lake. Objections range from control over local land use to financing.

Funding ideas for Lake County include a gas tax and increasing tolls.

Wadsworth resident Susan Zingle of the Sierra Club said environmentalists are wary of the project. She warned, "for those who think it's a slam dunk, be advised there's plenty of people concerned."

The tollway did not take any action on the issue Thursday.

"We're continuing to listen and we'll take it from there," Chairman Robert Schillerstrom said.

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