Tollway approves $4 million study for Route 53
Rob Sherman, Buffalo Grove activist, urges the Illinois State Toll Highway Board of Directors to reject the current plan to extend Illinois Route 53 north of Lake Cook Road. | Ronnie Wachter~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 6, 2013 9:23AM
DOWNERS GROVE — The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority unanimously approved paying $4 million to continue studying the feasibility of extending Route 53 north of Lake-Cook Road to Route 120.
The tollway board of directors on Feb. 28 approved a contract with the Schaumburg-based planning firm TranSystems Corp. The firm will have roughly 18 months to pick up details a previous, all-volunteer committee could not tackle, such as engineering, traffic analysis and environmental impacts.
TranSystems is also expected to deliver hard data about what the volunteer committee’s proposal will cost, and how the tollway might fund it. The current idea calls for a 12.5-mile, four-lane road running north and south, as well as improvements to Route 120. The committee estimated this could cost between $2.3 and $2.7 billion.
“There are many recommendations that came out of the advisory council process,” said Kristi Lafleur, the tollway’s executive director. “This is really the next stage of the evaluation necessary.”
The advisory council consisted of more than two dozen members from a variety of backgrounds, nearly half of whom came into the process in 2011 after speaking against the idea of an extension ever being built; by June 2012, though, the group was nearly unanimous in backing the “21st century parkway” they envisioned. In their plan, all of Route 53 would become a paid road, at a yet-undecided fare, with a 45 mph speed limit that they assured the directors would be enforced.
And while the tollway is moving forward with the committee’s vision, tollway board chairwoman Paula Wolff said it looks like a “really dramatic departure from the typical ways these roads are built.”
But that plan has plenty of scoffers, foremost among them Buffalo Grove activist Rob Sherman, who addressed the board.
“Last year, I asked you to take the report from the Blue Ribbon Committee, throw it away and start over,” Sherman said. “Ladies and gentlemen, you don’t need to spend $4 million for that. You need to ask the people who would be paying for the highway.”
Lafleur told Sherman part of TranSystem’s contract is to survey potential drivers, to gauge who would be interested in paying to drive on a “highway” with fewer lanes and the same speed limit as Lake Cook Road. Since the cost of the road, and how it will be funded, remain unclear, so does its final outcome.
“Often, it’s how to pay for it that’s the bigger struggle,” Lafleur said.