Continued funding gridlock over IL-53 extension

May 9, 2014 at 6:54 am

The ongoing funding chronicle over the expansion of IL-53 in Lake county seems to have hit a plateau:

Members of an Illinois tollway advisory council tossed around ideas to fund a Route 53 extension Thursday, noting that sharing the cost regionally instead of locally will ease the pain.

The tollway has yet to decide if it will adopt the pricey project, which would lengthen Route 53 north 12 miles from Lake-Cook Road to connect with Route 120.

The article from the Daily Herald says funding the $2.47 billion project could not be done with tolls alone; in the past, I’ve written that the $0.20/mi toll ($0.14/mi higher than the regional average) would only cover about 17% of the cost.

Image: Bill Burmaster.

There’s talk of raising gas taxes – which we have to do anyway – or sales taxes, an idea that would shift the burden of the entire cost from its future users to everyone buying anything in the county. TIF funds or a SSA were other ideas.

There has not been any public talk about tolling the existing freeway portion of IL-53 or even conducting a toll sensitivity analysis. It’s entirely possible that tolling the existing freeway would lower the amount of drivers using it, but project supporters appear to have their eyes set on the prize.

It is amusing to watch as legislators are finally confronted with the true high cost of building new roads. Just as IDOT is sweetening the funding package of the Illiana expressway by adding $250 million in guaranteed public funds, the tollway is faced with how to take on and pay for another expensive project.