What should become of Route 53 corridor? Lake board candidates weigh in

The proposed Route 53 extension from Lake-Cook Road north to Grayslake through central Lake County may be dead, but a lot of land has been set aside over many years for the road's path.

What could or should become of that corridor?

The Republicans competing for their party's nomination to the Lake County Board's District 7 seat say there are possibilities, but also potential pitfalls, if the land becomes available.

Incumbent Steve Carlson of Grandwood Park, a retired consultant in medical data analysis, has held the seat since 2002. He is seeking reelection for a sixth term.

He is being challenged in the March 17 primary by Gurnee Trustee Greg Garner, a retired pharmaceutical salesman. He was appointed to the village board in 2005 and then elected to four consecutive terms.

District 7 includes portions of Gurnee, Third Lake and surrounding unincorporated areas. County board members also serve as commissioners of the Lake County Forest Preserve District.

Carlson and Garner discussed the Route 53 corridor and other issues in a recent Daily Herald endorsement interview.

"Transportation obviously is very important to the residents of Lake County, and I think if 53 is dead, all the other roads have to be improved to deal with the congestion," Garner said.

Cost would be the main consideration if any of the Route 53 corridor becomes available, said Garner, adding that Lake County residents have been taxed enough.

"My concern would be at what point does it increase the taxpayers' taxes at the end of the day. As my mom used to say, a good idea is not necessarily a great idea," Garner said.

Carlson, who has opposed the Route 53 plan his entire tenure on the board, said the county has done and will be pursuing hundreds of millions in roadwork in coming years.

Completed projects, including the Rollins Gateway underpass at Route 83, Millburn Route 45 bypass and Washington Street underpass/widening, are examples of how the county has dedicated a special regional sales tax to address traffic trouble spots, he added.

"There's a bunch of things we need to do, but the other issue we haven't addressed yet is what to do with the (Route 53) corridor," Carlson added.

He said it's popular to say the corridor, owned by the Illinois Department of Transportation, should become forest preserves. But only about half is suitable for that purpose, and it is unlikely the state would give it away, he added.

Acquiring any of that land likely would mean asking voters for money, according to Carlson.

"I'm not going to turn around specifying a referendum but I think that would be a really good reason for a referendum if the state of Illinois would say, 'Look, we're either going to sell you or give you this land. Do you want it?'" Carlson said.

The winner March 17 will advance to the November general election to face Democrat Carissa Casbon of Warren Township, who is running unopposed in the primary.

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