The time has come to officially approve plans to extend Route 53 into Lake County, say many local officials. The much debated roadway now has several supporters behind a compromised proposal for it.
This would be an entirely "different kind of road," said Grayslake Trustee Bruce Bassett, in a statement to the Illinois Tollway Authority Board about the design of the proposed Route 53 extension into Lake County.
The road would be "environmentally focused, visionary and sustainable," Bassett said. As proposed, the extension would be a four-lane highway with speeds limited to 45 miles per hour in order to reduce noise and environmental impacts.
Bassett, a 20-year Lake County resident, said he believes it is time - finally - to approve the plans for Route 53.
He said the road design was developed in conjunction with the Blue Ribbon Advisory Council, which is chaired by Lake County Board Chairman David Stolman and civic leader George Ranney.
"We, along with the region, will benefit a great deal from the road the report describes," Bassett said.
. It would be developed in coordination with local governments. Funding options may include adjusting tolls on I-94 and adding tolls to the existing Illinois Route 53 from Lake-Cook Road to I-90.
The Chicago Tribune reported that the price tag for the proposed Route 53 extension is estimated at $1.9 billion to $2.5 billion. Stolman and Ranney recently presented the group's report to the Illinois Tollway board, with input from local leaders like Bassett, who gave comments on behalf of Grayslake Mayor Rhett Taylor and the Grayslake trustees.
Support for the Route 53 extension has grown to include state and local officials, community leaders, construction workers, envirnmentalists and others. They are presenting a unified voice to the Illinois Tollway Authority Board to plead for the road to be built as part of the tollway system for traffic relief, job creation and economic development.
Route 53 has been debated for more than 30 years. Opponents continue to question how to fund the road and how to protect the surrounding environment. Bassett said the proposed highway addresses the majority of concerns on all sides.
"If the past years have taught us anything, it is that Route 53 can only be extended by compromise: it's not my way or the highway, but it is this environmentally focused, new model highway, or no highway at all," Bassett said. "But this road will enhance the value of the system, of the roads you have already built. This is not just compromise, it is a consensus - a historic consensus. If this is not built, nothing will ever be."