Committee sends Longmeadow toll bridge funding to full Kane County Board

 
 
Updated 9/18/2018 6:35 PM
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Commuters on the north end of Kane County will have a new Fox River crossing option in the form of a 95-cent toll bridge if the full county board follows the lead set Tuesday by its transportation committee.

It gave initial approval to the sale of $36.5 million in bonds to fuel the construction of a toll bridge over the river. The bridge will connect the two ends of the 5.6-mile Longmeadow Parkway corridor.

The 95-cent toll surpasses KDOT staff estimates that had been as low as 50 cents. It stems from the projected use of the bridge and the number of tolls that traffic must generate to repay the bonds. KDOT Deputy Director Tom Rickert said state law requires the county to sunset the toll.

"The toll funds can only be spent on the bridge and future maintenance," Rickert said. "Unlike the Illinois State Tollway authority, we have to get rid of these tolls. The state law is pretty clear."

There is no firm date for when the tolls will go away. Rickert said sunsetting the toll will depend on how fast the county can repay the bonds and build up a trust fund that will cover future maintenance for the remaining life of the bridge. The trust fund, Rickert said, should contain at least as much money as the cost of the bridge itself.

Conservative estimates put the timeline for sunsetting the toll at about 35 years. Rickert said there is optimism about retiring the toll long before then. The forecasts show the use of the toll bridge will increase as the area population rises. Twenty-five to 30 years out, the forecasts show 14,000 daily users and $6 million a year in toll collections.

The toll is one of the least popular aspects of the plan. Residents who live near the ongoing construction and those opposed to seeing the roadway run through the Brunner Forest Preserve have tried to stop the plan to no avail. Jarett Sanchez was the lone transportation committee member to vote against the bond issue and toll Tuesday.

There is still a pending lawsuit regarding the impact of the project on the endangered Rusty Patch Bee.

County board Chairman Chris Lauzen said officials know the toll will be a tough sell.

"It's not an easy thing to apply a user fee to the structure, but it wouldn't be possible to have this project without it," Lauzen said. "The only way Kane County could afford this is having a user fee that would produce that $30 million. The county doesn't have it."

Transportation committee Chairman Drew Frasz said the toll will get users coming from McHenry and Cook Counties to help pay for the bridge.

"The reason the toll concept evolved is because this is walking distance from the county line and this bridge will be used by people from various counties," Frasz said. "It's a regional project."

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