Small piece of tollway budget draws response from supporters, foes of Route 53 extension

  • The corridor of the proposed Route 53 extension includes a portion of Round Lake. Nearly three dozen Lake County residents weighed in on the extension proposal during a public hearing Wednesday on the tollway's $1.3 billion 2016 operating budget.

    The corridor of the proposed Route 53 extension includes a portion of Round Lake. Nearly three dozen Lake County residents weighed in on the extension proposal during a public hearing Wednesday on the tollway's $1.3 billion 2016 operating budget. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer, 2014

 
 
Updated 11/18/2015 6:51 PM

The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority held a public hearing in Libertyville Tuesday on its proposed $1.3 billion 2016 operating budget, but it was tiny slice of the spending plan that prompted the most comment.

About 100 people attended the two-hour hearing at the Lake County permit facility. Of the 33 that spoke, most addressed the pros and cons of the proposed Route 53 extension north into Lake County.

 

The 196-page tollway budget includes $5.8 million to study emerging projects, which could be used to start an environmental impact study for the Illinois Route 53/120 Extension Project.

The give and take Wednesday illustrated an intensifying rift between supporters and opponents of the extension, which has been around in one form or another for more than 50 years.

Opposition has intensified in recent months, and representatives from communities in the road corridor have become more vocal.

Supporters say the exact configuration has not been determined, and the only way to get to that level of detail is through the environmental study.

Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor, who's played key roles in a pair of studies on the extension, was the first to speak during the public comment period. He alluded to tollway officials' drive to Libertyville from the agency's home base in Downers Grove.

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"I'm sure you see the need Lake County has for traffic congestion relief," he said, adding that the environmental impact process would include a "robust opportunity" for public debate and scrutiny.

Costs of the project have been estimated at between $2.35 billion and $2.65 billion.

Hawthorn Woods Mayor Joe Mancino noted several communities, including Mundelein, Long Grove and his town, are in the path of the proposed route but were not part of the original vetting process.

Bill Morris, a Grayslake resident and former tollway director, reiterated his position the road is unnecessary and too expensive.

But Hainesville Mayor Linda Soto said the population has increased significantly and traffic relief is needed.

The third and final public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Thursday, at the tollway headquarters, 2700 Ogden Ave., Downers Grove. The tollway board will consider the final 2016 budget at its December meeting.

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