The debate over long-proposed Route 53 extension

  • Northbound Route 53 now ends at Lake-Cook Road, but many elected officials think the highway should be extended into Lake County. County voters can express their opinions April 7 through a nonbinding referendum.

    Northbound Route 53 now ends at Lake-Cook Road, but many elected officials think the highway should be extended into Lake County. County voters can express their opinions April 7 through a nonbinding referendum. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Proponents of a plan to extend Route 53 north into Lake County say it would relieve traffic congestion elsewhere, such as oft-congested Route 45.

    Proponents of a plan to extend Route 53 north into Lake County say it would relieve traffic congestion elsewhere, such as oft-congested Route 45. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 
Published3/30/2009 12:12 AM

Traffic gridlock is the most common complaint about life in Lake County, and some people think the long-proposed but never-built extension of Route 53 could help solve the problem.

Whether a question on April 7 ballots will turn that decades-old proposal into a reality, however, remains to be seen.

 

Lake County voters will be asked if the state should extend Route 53 north to Route 120, a plan that's been on the books since the 1950s. The results will be advisory only and not binding. In other words, even if every single voter punches "yes," it doesn't mean the highway will be built.

After all, the project would be a state effort and not a county one.

But county officials say the election results will guide them in deciding whether to pursue the project with lawmakers and transportation officials. Consensus from residents, they say, is a necessary step in persuading state and federal officials to fund the project, which some experts have said would cost more than $1 billion.

One of the leading proponents of the Route 53 extension - and the referendum - is county board member David Stolman, a Buffalo Grove Republican who's a leader on the county's transportation committee. Stolman believes voters can be proactive and take steps to improve local transportation, or sit back and watch the county's congestion problems worsen.

Fellow county board member Pat Carey, a Grayslake Democrat, is critical of the plan. She says the ballot question doesn't put the proposal into any kind of economic or environmental context and doesn't explain what actually would happen next. Significant transportation improvements are needed, she said, but this plan isn't the way to go.

You can learn more about the plan by visiting lakecountyil.gov/route53. Express your own opinion by voting April 7.

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