Longmeadow toll likely to be lowered, not eliminated, in absence of more state help
Kane County's Longmeadow Parkway will fully open in 2023 with a reduced toll but a toll nonetheless. And county residents will now be on the hook for the future maintenance of the 5.6-mile parkway.
The county received $17.5 million in funding for the parkway in the recent passage of the new state budget. But that was only half of the money needed to eliminate the toll. The county sold bonds to finance the parkway's construction.
There is an option to retire those bonds early, in December 2028, with a payout of $35 million.
Tom Rickert, the county's deputy director of transportation, told the county board this week that his staff is still contemplating how to handle the toll. There is hope for another $17.5 million in the state's 2024 budget. But with no guarantee, Rickert said construction of the toll collection mechanism and collection of tolls will move forward. The amount of the toll, set at 95 cents, is under reconsideration.
"If we only receive the $17.5 million, there will be toll relief," Rickert said. "That will be the focus. I don't want to throw out a number without having the data to make sure it actually works."
Kane County and Algonquin residents were set to receive discounted toll rates of about 38 cents per crossing via a $200 annual pass. Those discounts may increase thanks to the state funding, but Ricket was not prepared to say by how much.
"Ultimately, the direction we've been given by the county board is no toll," Rickert said.
The retirement of the toll would also dry up the source of the funds the county planned to use for a $10 million endowment that would pay for the future maintenance of the parkway. That cost, which Rickert did not provide a dollar figure for, would shift to the county's regular annual budget.
Board members asked if there was a possibility the parkway could open without a toll in anticipation of additional help from the state. Then, if more money didn't come through, the county could turn on the toll at that time. Rickert was leery of that idea because opening the parkway as a free road would create the expectation that it would always be free. He said the county can turn off the toll and "repurpose" the collection equipment once the county eliminates the toll.
A football field length of the road on the east side of the new bridge over the Fox River is all that remains to complete the project. That work is stalled by the need to remove lead-contaminated soil.