Panel’s report buoys hopes for Route 53 extension
Updated: June 4, 2012 12:42PM
An advisory panel’s report on the proposed extension of Illinois Route 53 is giving transportation and county officials renewed hope about the project’s future.
“What this really is is a new beginning for the project,” said Rocco Zucchero, deputy chief of engineering for the Illinois Tollway during the annual meeting of the Transportation Management Association of Lake Cook (TMA) in Deerfield on Thursday. About 40 people attended.
Zucchero and Lake County Board Chairman David Stolman discussed the Illinois Route 53/120 Blue Ribbon Advisory Council’s report and recommendations to the tollway for a proposed extension of Route 53 into Lake County that would connect up to a proposed Route 120 bypass near Grayslake. The tollway will review the council’s report at its June 28 board meeting.
The Route 53 project has been debated since the 1960s. Previous attempts to gain consensus have stalled because of concerns about the impact on the environment and communities along the route.
Stolman, who co-chaired the Route 53/120 Blue Ribbon Advisory Council, said the committee’s work represents a consensus recommendation including representatives of business, the environmental community, elected officials and communities along the route. The report’s recommendations were supported by all but two of the 25 members of the advisory council.
45 mph limit
The report calls for a four-lane, limited-access tollway along the 12-mile stretch of Route 53 from Lake Cook Road north to Route 120, with maximum roadway speeds of 45 mph. It also proposed a partially depressed below grade roadway with berms to minimize sound impacts, underpasses at railroad interchanges, and elevated causeways over environmentally sensitive natural areas such as wetlands.
“Lake County is such a beautiful area that we really didn’t want it to lose its character,” said Stolman of the environmental sensitive roadway features.
Stolman said scientific studies conducted by the group found the 45 mph maximum speed limit was appropriate and would move traffic efficiently along the stretch.
“Forty-five miles per hour was selected because it’s a lesser footprint,” he said. “Noise is mitigated by the lower speeds and pollution is mitigated.”
Don Ellis, a Buffalo Grove resident who attended the meeting, said he supports the Route 53 extension but warned about “scope creep”, or the potential the final roadway may be larger than what was originally planned. He talked about the I-355 extension in Will County, which was originally proposed as four-lane highway and later became six lanes.
To ensure the final design is consistent with the advisory council’s recommendations, resolutions have been sponsored in both the Illinois House and Senate supporting advisory council’s recommended design, Stolman said.
Bill Baltutis, executive director of the TMA of Lake Cook, said the business community in the county has long supported the Route 53 extension and is glad the project now appears to have gained more broad-based consensus. Baltutis said he would like to see the tollway set a more definite timetable for when construction would begin.