If Lake County puts Route 53 plan on ice, will tollway get cold feet?
There's only one consensus on extending Route 53 into Lake County and that is -- the issue has dragged on for many years.
Since the 1970s, the project has been studied multiple times, analyzed to death in myriad committees and voted on in a 2009 referendum where residents said yes.
This month will mark another turning point. The Lake County Board could put the Route 53 extension on the back burner at a meeting Tuesday.
If they do, the Illinois tollway -- the latest entity to carry the Route 53 torch -- might announce it's pulling the plug on a related $25 million environmental study this month.
The odds favor a thumbs-down, and here's why.
Tollway leaders have traditionally required a "consensus" on major projects and that's decidedly lacking on Route 53.
While Lake County residents hate the daily gridlock on major roads like Routes 120 and 83, an influential contingent warns the extension will pollute wetlands and nature preserves.
And while supporters promise traffic relief and economic development, the $2.7 billion estimated cost stumps everyone -- particularly given unpopular funding solutions like exorbitant tolls on the new road.
Political insiders doubt Illinois' new governor and tollway administration will embrace pouring money into this political hot potato absent a Lake County cheerleader.
"I absolutely think the tollway should drop the study," said Hawthorn Woods Mayor Joseph Mancino, whose community opposes the extension that could run through town. "The main reason is there is no funding available to build Route 53."
"The Illinois tollway should stop wasting $25 million paying outside consultants" to study a road Lake County and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning are downgrading on their priority lists, Environmental Law and Policy Center Executive Director Howard Learner said.
That's not to say this would be an easy walkaway. The Illinois Department of Transportation has spent the last 48 years acquiring 1,100 acres of land for the Route 53 corridor, costing at least $48 million.
Meanwhile the tollway has invested about $11.6 million in an environmental impact study since July 2017.
"If the Lake County Board downgrades Route 53, they are going against the will of the vast majority of residents in Lake County. It would be very disappointing," former Lake County Board member Sid Mathias said.
Losing Route 53 would set Lake County back as far as mobility goes, Illinois Road & Transportation Builders Association CEO Michael Sturino said.
He says a lack of transportation option is causing corporations to leave the county. "You can't have a better quality of life when no one can get around."
But other fixes exist that aren't boondoggles, said former state senator and tollway board director Bill Morris of Grayslake.
"The state and tollway can focus on easing congestion with projects like a rail overpass at Routes 83 and 120 in Grayslake that can be built for a tiny percentage of the cost" of a tollway, he said.
As it happens, Illinois lawmakers inserted $78 million for grade crossing improvements in the state capital plan in June.
"Regardless of what happens (with Route 53), we have to invest in existing Route 120," Democratic state Sen. Melinda Bush of Grayslake said. "We need a grade separation at Routes 120 and 83. It's not a safe intersection."
Stay tuned and send your thoughts on Route 53 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reader Rita Boserup and a friend were walking on the College of DuPage campus in Glen Ellyn recently when they came to a crosswalk at Lambert Road.
As they crossed, "a car made a left turn onto the street in front of us," Boserup said.
"Even though we hadn't reached the midpoint of the road, my girlfriend insists that the car should not have turned. My thought is -- since we weren't anywhere near the lane the car was turning into -- that it was OK for the car to proceed."
The friend is correct, Illinois Secretary of State spokesman Dave Druker said. "As long as the women were in the crosswalk at any point, the driver of the car should have deferred to them," he explained.
You should know
Heading up to Green Bay for a Bears/Packers skirmish? Got a kid traveling home from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin? Amtrak is opening up options for Illinoisans by adding a bus that will travel between Milwaukee and Green Bay serving Amtrak passengers. The twice daily round-trip bus enhances Amtrak's Hiawatha train service between Chicago and Milwaukee and has stops in Green Bay, Appleton, Oshkosh and Fond du Lac.
To learn more go to amtrakhiawatha.
Check your back seat
Already, 2019 has seen 19 children die after being left unattended in the back seat of a hot car.
It's horrific, and safety advocates hope to stop needless deaths with a bill requiring auto manufacturers to install sensors in cars that remind drivers to check the back seat.
Fifty-two children have perished in hot cars since 2018, the KidsAndCars advocacy group states. One of the sponsors includes Democratic U.S. Sen. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston.