Longmeadow Parkway project nearing completion
The opening of Longmeadow Parkway from White Chapel Lane to Route 31 in the past week marked the completion of about 85% of the work on a project in the making for three decades.
As some residents look forward to a more expeditious commute on the north end of Kane County, others are falling deeper into their mourning for the lost landscape.
County board member Drew Frasz is firmly in the camp of people who believe the addition of another crossing over the Fox River is long overdue. His lengthy, zig-zag travels and circuitous routes taken on his regular rounds to check on the progress of the project only entrenches that idea further in his mind.
"It's been a long time coming," Frasz said. "Like most projects, all the concepts and approval and funding take the longest time. But once it's done, I think the motoring public will appreciate it. If you're coming from the eastern terminus on Route 62, which is almost at the Cook County line, you can turn onto Longmeadow and get almost all the way out to Gilberts in a matter of minutes."
That's a key part of the vision, as is drawing people down from McHenry County, driving the economic support and development aspect of the project.
But for many other residents, like county board member Chris Kious, the cost of both the 5.6-mile corridor and bridge far exceed the advantages in two major ways.
"As the bridge project nears completion, it becomes ever more apparent just how massive the project is," said Kious, who won his seat on the board with an anti-Longmeadow platform. "It cuts a huge swath through the Brunner Forest Preserve, reducing the aesthetics of the area."
The project has included significant tree plantings and other landscaping to help soothe some of those concerns. Perhaps the most begrudging aspect of the project for people is the one furthest from completion - the toll collection system.
The toll to cross the bridge, which has been discounted for Kane County residents who buy an annual pass, will be put in place to pay off the construction and maintenance costs of the project. Frasz said the bridge will finish before the collection system is done. That means there will likely be some period where drivers can use the bridge for free and decide for themselves if the convenience is worth the price.
But Kious said the price of a toll he expects will never go away (despite promises to the contrary from the county board) will do little to help ease lingering bad feelings about the project.
"Residents of northern Kane County will be paying a hefty price just to get across town," Kious said. "It's interesting that the board thinks it's logical to have a toll on our bridge, but when I propose that we add a toll to bridges on other county-controlled bridges it's dismissed as 'ridiculous.'"
Work will continue on the project through 2021 with detail work lingering through 2022.