Task force begins work on alternate uses Route 53 extension corridor

  • With plans for an extension of Route 53 into Lake County defunct, a state panel tasked with deciding what to do with the road's proposed corridor from Long Grove to Grayslake met for the first time Monday.

    With plans for an extension of Route 53 into Lake County defunct, a state panel tasked with deciding what to do with the road's proposed corridor from Long Grove to Grayslake met for the first time Monday. Daily Herald File Photo

  • With plans for an extension of Route 53 into Lake County defunct, a state panel tasked with deciding what to do with the road's proposed corridor from Long Grove to Grayslake met for the first time Monday.

    With plans for an extension of Route 53 into Lake County defunct, a state panel tasked with deciding what to do with the road's proposed corridor from Long Grove to Grayslake met for the first time Monday. Daily Herald File Photo

 
 
Updated 12/20/2021 4:49 PM

The work of determining alternatives to a controversial road in the Route 53 corridor from Long Grove to Grayslake began Monday with a promise to hear all interests and concerns.

"It's a big undertaking, (and) what we come up with will have a huge impact," said state Sen. Melinda Bush, chair of the 19-member Illinois Route 53 Expansion Land Alternative Use Task Force.

 

"We're going to make sure we listen to everyone," said Bush, a co-sponsor of the bill that created the task force.

There appears to be general agreement that a greenway or trail system of some sort should be established in the more than 1,000-acre corridor that was secured by the Illinois Department of Transportation beginning in the mid-1960s.

"I don't see anyone who's not interested in that," Bush said after an informal poll of task force members.

But a pending economic development plan being prepared for Lake County also is a factor.

"It's a piece of information that would be helpful to us," said Mundelein Mayor Steve Lentz, who serves on the panel with the mayors of Long Grove, Hawthorn Woods and Grayslake.

"Our community isn't ready to commit to a full-blown trail," Lentz said. "I don't think we're even to a place IDOT should be unloading the land."

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Communities, park districts or other agencies, such as the Lake County Forest Preserve District, as well as environmental groups also have a stake in what happens.

Bush said the task force needs to learn how individual properties were acquired by IDOT, be it by purchase or easement. Zoning, potential restrictions and adjoining uses are other variables.

"We really have to understand how they (properties) were acquired so we can move forward," Bush said.

State lawmakers created the task force to study the "cost, feasibility and environmental impact of alternative uses" in the corridor through central Lake County, including any impact on flooding.

The panel also will study the short- and long-term economic impact to the region and funding options for alternative uses. The resolution creating the panel calls for it to meet at least four times before filing a final report with the General Assembly by Dec. 31, 2022.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I think we'll probably end up having quite a few more than four," Bush said during the hourlong initial session, which was held virtually.

While extending Route 53 north into Lake County is out of the picture, determining alternatives for the corridor will take some doing, given the variety of interests.

"It took us 60 years to get to this point," said state Rep. Dan Didech, who co-sponsored the task force legislation. "I hope it doesn't take 60 years to get to the next point."

The idea of a Route 53 extension first surfaced in a regional transportation plan in 1962, and IDOT began acquiring property a few years later. In the mid-1990s, the Illinois Toll Highway Authority studied the Route 53 extension along with a southern extension of I-355.

A blue ribbon advisory council formed in 2011 led to a consensus to proceed with a parkway-style road, but the tollway withdrew its support in July 2019.

"We find ourselves in a really different place than the last 30 years," Bush said.

The panel includes representatives from the Illinois departments of transportation and natural resources, and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency; the Lake County Board, forest preserve district and stormwater management agencies; and citizens groups and environmental organizations.

The task force's next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 28.

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