Illinois Tollway committee approves funding up to $993 million for Route 53/120 project

Updated Mar 23, 2015
A roadway design map of the Illinois Route 53/120 project.A roadway design map of the Illinois Route 53/120 project.

A committee formed by the Illinois Tollway (IT) approved funding recommendations that could generate between $745 million and $993 million for the Illinois Route 53/120 extension project.

According to an IT release, the committee, convened by the tollway for the project, also recommends IT proceed with studies covering the environmental and engineering aspects of the project, including looking at roadway alignment, access points, design, project impacts and mitigation issues.

The project has been proposed as a “21st century urban highway in central Lake County—a modern boulevard with a small footprint to protect the natural environment and preserve the character of the area while addressing the need for congestion relief and greater connectivity.”

This funding is needed, IT said, because the projected cost of the project will exceed the tolls being brought in. The projected cost is estimated at $2.35 billion to $2.65 billion in “2020 dollars,” according to the group. Tolling is only expected to bring in $250 million to $330 million in “bonding capacity”.

Recommendations include:

  • Leveraging a portion of the increase in adjacent, new non-residential land values to financially support the protection and restoration of natural resources in the corridor via an Environmental Restoration and Stewardship Fund.
  • Adding Lake County to the state’s current 4-cent-per-gallon county motor fuel tax and committing 50 percent of revenues to the Illinois Route 53/120 Project (the other 50 percent would be committed to other transportation priorities in Lake County).
  • Indexing and congestion pricing of tolls along Illinois Route 53/120 as a pilot for eventual implementation along the entire Tollway system.
  • Restructuring tolls along the Tri-State Tollway (I-94) in Lake County to raise revenue, improve tolling equity and mitigate and minimize diversion onto local roads. Adding a new mainline toll plaza and/or tolling existing I-94 access points that are not currently tolled could accomplish this.

“Planning for the extension of Illinois Route 53 has been stalled for years due to various funding challenges and a lack of consensus,” said Lake County Board Chair Aaron Lawlor. “(The approval vote) represents a major step forward in order to make the project a reality and address a critical transportation need in Lake County.”

A report including the recommendations will be presented to the Illinois Tollway Board of Directors. The committee’s report is available in the “Construction/Planning” section of Select “Community Outreach” once in the section.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article said the recommendations had been approved by the Illinois Tollway Finance Committee when in fact the recommendations were approved by the project’s finance committee. The article has been updated to reflect the correction. We regret the error.