No state funds for Longmeadow Parkway leaves Lauzen fuming
Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen blasted local state lawmakers for not delivering money for the Longmeadow Parkway that would help prevent the need for a toll bridge to complete the project, but at least one state senator said she never heard from him.
Now, expectations for any state funding might depend on whether lawmakers would contribute some of the member initiative money each received in the budget to spend on in-district projects.
The bridge will create a new crossing over the Fox River near the McHenry County border, but a lack of local funding, so far, will lead to a toll to pay for the bridge and future maintenance. County officials hoped to get about $40 million to eliminate the need for what is expected to be an unpopular toll.
"It does blow me away that this would be the circumstance," Lauzen said Wednesday.
The lack of state funding is even harder to swallow because increases to the gas tax and fees for driver's licenses and vehicle titles will push an estimated $73 million of additional money from Kane County residents' wallets to state coffers each year, according to Lauzen's calculations.
He also pointed to the $100 million in the state budget to expand Metra into Kendall County as a sore spot. KDOT officials joined Lauzen in saying there is no obvious way that project happens because Metra can barely sustain lines it now operates. Even worse, he said, is Kendall County is not in the RTA service area and has never paid into the RTA sales tax pool.
"We weren't even asking for half the amount of that (Metra) expansion that won't take place and shouldn't take place," he said. "We've paid hundreds of millions of dollars in RTA taxes for a generation. What did we get? Zero. Kendall County, they haven't paid a penny. Not one cent. They are getting $100 million."
Lauzen said the 15 local officials who represent Kane County in Springfield can still help if they give the county 15% to 20% of the so-called member initiative money.
State Sen. Cristina Castro confirmed she will receive $6 million in member initiative money. The former Kane County Board member said she isn't giving any to Longmeadow. She's committed her dollars to projects brought to her by local officials during the state budget process.
Castro said Longmeadow may have received funds if she and her Democratic colleagues heard from Kane County.
"Chris Lauzen never reached out to me or my office," she said. "I received no letters. Nothing. No one approached me individually, or any of the Democratic senators, as far as I'm aware, about what Kane County wanted."
In contrast, state Sen. Don DeWitte said he heard from Lauzen at least half a dozen times. Those calls, plus a public hearing in Elgin in late April, made it clear to him Longmeadow was high on the county's project list.
That said, DeWitte received "an awful lot of" funding requests for local projects. He said he believes Longmeadow could receive funds through IDOT's budget and/or the member initiative money. DeWitte and fellow Republican state senators expect to receive about $4 million each from the member initiative pool.
"If the impression is that Kane County's needs weren't represented in this process, that's simply not true," DeWitte said. "I continue to follow up with the Republican Caucus staff on the Longmeadow project and all the other local projects I submitted for consideration."
DeWitte said he expects IDOT to announce funding for specific projects within the next seven to 10 days.