Environmental concerns raised over Route 53/Route 120 plan
LIBERTYVILLE Friday Apr 20 2012 George Ranney with the Metropolis Strategies and Prairie Holding Corporation, listens to comments from other members of the Route 53 Blue Ribbon Advisory Council. The Council presented their proposed draft for a new Route 53 in Lake County during a meeting at the Central Permit Facility in Libertyville.| Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 27, 2012 8:09AM
Gerald Adelmann questions if a new Route 53 roadway extension can be built in Lake County without causing significant damage to the environment.
Adelmann, president and CEO of Openlands, a non-profit environmental group, appreciates the efforts of the Illinois Route 53/Route 120 Blue Ribbon Advisory Council to come up with an environmental sensitive design for a proposed Route 53 extension and connecting Route 120 bypass. However, he still fears the project would damage natural areas such as Almond Marsh, Liberty Prairie Reserve, Indian Creek Marsh and Long Grove Surrey Marsh.
“Right now, the conservation and environmental community has been largely opposed,” he said. “We don’t know how it could be done without significant impacts.”
Adelmann, an environmental member of the advisory council, was one of a number of environmentalists who expressed concerns during a meeting of about 100 people in Libertyville last week on the Illinois Route 53/Route 120 Blue Ribbon Advisory Council’s draft report.
The report, which was completed April 13, proposes an environmentally sensitive Route 53, either four or six lanes, which would utilize a parkway design and would possibly include a bus lane for transit.
David Stolman, co-chairman of the Route 53/Route 120 Blue Ribbon Advisory Council, emphasized the advisory report was only a preliminary recommendation. Additional comments would be sought from residents and village officials before the final report is submitted to the Illinois Tollway on May 20.
Chris Geiselhart, a Libertyville resident and president of the Lake County Audubon Society, voiced concern over a line in the report that said the project design could be modified to find the “appropriate cost-benefit balance.”
“It seemed like a red flag to me,” she said.
Another council member Mike Sands, executive director of the Liberty Prairie Foundation, said he does believe the roadway could be built in environmentally sensitive way, as long as the environmental guidelines of the Blue Ribbon advisory committee were followed.
“I actually have a fair amount of confidence we can do a good job, if we have these components in it,” he said.
Stolman and advisory council co-chair George Ranney suggested that perhaps some type of legislation could be drafted requiring any type of new Route 53 that was built to follow the general environmental guidelines established by the council.
Others on the group said Route 53 has long been needed to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion and believe the environmental concerns could be resolved.
“We take these concerns very seriously. Let’s do it, let’s be a model and let’s do it right,” said State Rep. Sid Mathias, 53rd, of Buffalo Grove. “I do want the road to be built and I want it to be built in the best way it can for all concerned.”
Some local officials who support Route 53 believe the proposed design outlined by the Blue Ribbon advisory council would not provide the full benefits of improved traffic flow for the region.
Vernon Hills officials were particularly concerned about a provision in the draft plan which called for a maximum speed limit of 45 mph along the corridor,
“The current proposal that is part of this project draft would significantly compromise a limited access expressway concept,” said Vernon Hills Mayor Roger Byrne, in a letter to the council. “While we appreciate and support the environmental concerns, some of the compromises that are part of the draft reduce the highway benefits of the road and do not take into account the reduction of the negative air quality and water quality impacts of current traffic within this corridor. Further it is not appropriate at this time to dicate the number of lanes of either Route 53 or Route 120 without the proper analysis of data by traffic engineers utilizing accepted professional studies.”