Route 53's shelving means uncertainty for property sellers
Dan Wandel, Nancy VanWeelden and their 40 acres are sitting on the back burner and it's not a comfortable position.
The brother and sister from Hawthorn Woods had hoped the state would buy their rustic property on Gilmer Road as part of the Route 53 extension into Lake County.
But despite appraisals and surveys, nothing's happening, Wandel and VanWeelden explained.
"We're kind of in limbo," VanWeelden said.
The family's uncertain status resembles the future of Route 53 itself. The Illinois Department of Transportation has spent $54.3 million to date to purchase 1,100 acres along the Route 53 corridor.
But on July 12, the Illinois tollway -- the de facto leaders on the project -- pulled the plug on a feasibility study, citing the lack of consensus in Lake County.
The tollway's punt appears to have doomed the project for now. IDOT is holding the ball but, unlike the tollway, the department doesn't have enough money to fund a massive new road, estimated to cost at least $2.7 billion.
That might leave Wandel and VanWeelden as collateral damage -- for now.
The property nestled next to horse farms is home to coyotes and deer with a picturesque red barn and sturdy oaks. It was an ideal place to grow up. "Sometimes we rode our horse to school," a one-room structure on Gilmer Road, VanWeelden said.
She and her brother are retired and live separately in Florida now.
The state began buying land for the Route 53 project in 1971. "It's been hanging over our heads (for years)," Wandel said. "We're frustrated."
IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said the department had been approached about Wandel and VanWeelden's property about two years ago and discussions ensued.
"No final decisions have been made regarding whether IDOT will be acquiring this property and that status has not changed," he said.
The property is one of two Route 53-related potential land purchases awaiting IDOT's determination.
Federal regulators accepted the tollway's move in July and tollway directors on Aug. 15 formally rescinded the agency's role in the project.
Both IDOT and Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office have said they will work with stakeholders to figure out what's next and determine what to do with the 1,100 acres the state already owns.
That needs to happen sooner rather than later, said Illinois Environmental Law and Policy Center Director Howard Learner.
"IDOT should clarify it is not going forward with the Route 53 tollway in the foreseeable future and therefore lift the black cloud from routine property transactions and the way in which people live in their homes and run their lives in central Lake County," Learner said.
Got an opinion on what should happen to Route 53 land? Drop an email to email@example.com.
Reader Thomas Stevens is concerned about secondhand smoke following last week's column on legalizing marijuana in Illinois come Jan. 1.
"A neighbor may have an over-21-years party and legally offer marijuana joints to guests. Unlike alcohol, that unique smell will drift outside their home's boundary into the neighborhood. What about our right to sit outside and breathe fresh air? This is worse than cigarette smoke as the smell not only sickens people, it may make people high," Stevens wrote.
You should know
Ouch, this could hurt. Expect delays on I-290 near Elmhurst starting Tuesday as IDOT workers repair the highway bridge over York Road. The exit ramp from eastbound I-290 to York and the entrance ramp onto eastbound I-290 will be closed through the end of September. Also, plan for nightly closures on northbound York from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Detours will be posted. Why is this happening? Because of damage from a too-tall truck that struck structural steel beams, IDOT officials said.
Sorry, DuPage. IDOT is resurfacing sections of Route 53 between Sidney Avenue in Addison and St. Charles Road in Lombard, which will mean temporary lane closures starting Tuesday through the end of November.
Mile after mile
No need to book that cheap flight to Kalamazoo to use up air miles. United Airlines has announced that, unlike milk, your MileagePlus award miles will never expire. To learn more, go to hub.united.com/mileageplus.