The recent announcement that the Illinois Tollway Authority was going to raise tolls to pay for maintenance and new project sent waves of concern through proponents of the extension of Illinois Rt. 53 into the northwest suburbs.
Among the projects to be funded by increased tolls include the widening of I-90 from I-294 to Rockford and the badly needed interchange that would allow drivers to access I-57 directly from I-294.
But political pundits in the 'burbs are focused on extending Rt. 53. For the record, I am in the minority that opposes the extension. I’m not anti roadway; I’m just not in favor of replacing a headache with an upset stomach.
There’s no doubt that the growth in the northwest suburbs, especially Mundelein, Wauconda and Lake Zurich, has resulted in an increase in north/south traffic. Studies by the Northern Illinois Planning Commission done over the past 20-plus years have predicted the growth.
This intrigues me because if they saw the population explosion coming why didn’t the planning czars develop the appropriate roadway system?
If you drive just about anywhere from Wheeling north to the stateline and east from I-294 to Rt. 14, you’ll find that while north/south traffic is tight, but east/west traffic is brutal. The extension of Rt. 53, which would greatly improve north/south access, it would more than likely create huge bottlenecks on the east/west roads, including, but not limited to, Lake-Cook Road, Rt. 22, as well as routes 60,176,and 137, just to name a few.
So why not improve those routes as well? A couple of factors come into play. Some cities, such as Long Grove, have opposed efforts to widen major east/west routes that run through their limits. Long Grove has long opposed the widening of Rt. 22. Another factor is money. While the Tollway Authority can hit consumers in the wallet with toll increases for their roadway system, who is left paying for access to a new road?
Lake County Board President Dave Stolman says most of the east/west routes are state funded and getting money from the state is, well, more than a little difficult.
If the extension of Rt. 53 proves to be the economic panacea supporters think it will be, then you would there would be economic development funds available from the feds – or who knows – maybe even the Tollway Authority – funding feeder roadway improvements could increase use of the Rt. 53 extension, which could make things a bit easier on the users who are already being nickel and dimed, or should that be quartered, to death.
That, however, may make too much sense.