It takes a little perspective to actually understand how much we waste on needless highway infrastructure, whether it’s a $4,700,000,000, 52-mile highway bypass in Birmingham or a $118,000,000, 11-mile bypass near my hometown (if Google is to be trusted, it saves drivers a whopping 2 minutes to bypass the town’s 10,000 residents; if my observations are to be trusted, the bypass sees about 1 car every few minutes). Remember, that’s in a state whose governor rejected building a currently non-existent high-speed rail link between the state’s two largest cities on the grounds that taxpayers would have to pay something like $8 million per year to subsidize it. I could spend days researching the most expensive transportation boondoggles in the country, but its really just depressing considering we can’t even maintain what we already have, and other people are already doing it. We have enough – we’ve gone way past the point of diminishing returns because these new roads are making driving more attractive (in theory), therefore making traffic worse, and ensuring that we have to pay more for them in the future when they stop being all shiny and smooth.
So why exactly is the Illinois Tollway trying to extend IL route 53 12.5 miles north into Lake County? The proposed extension (map below) would take the existing freeway portion, which runs from Lake Cook Road at the Lake/Cook County border south to Schaumburg at Interstate 290, and extend it north through Lake County to route 120 in Grayslake.
Credit: Chicago Tribune.
To the Tollway’s credit, the plan does call for the road to be paid for through user fees, specifically congestion charging, something around 20 cents. However, this wouldn’t pay for the $2,500,000,000 price tag (yes, that’s $200,000,000 per mile, or about $3,500 per resident of Lake County, but who’s really counting, right?). Continue reading