After months in neutral, an Illinois tollway plan to extend Route 53 north has regained its mojo with a twist. There's a new name, the Tri-County Access project, and it's grown by four counties and one state -- Wisconsin.
But will the tollway's rebranding and expanding be enough to shift entrenched opposition?
Chairman Robert Schillerstrom is optimistic. The tollway wants to "start at square one and talk to people and analyze what they feel are the concerns there," he explained.
The project has been kicked around for decades. In 2012, an agreement was reached to extend Route 53 north to Route 120 as a 45 mph parkway, but high costs and pollution concerns unraveled that consensus.
Last July, the tollway dusted the idea off, leading to its metamorphosis into the Tri-County Access Project.
Instead of just fixing congestion in Lake, it's now aimed at Lake, north Cook, east McHenry, north DuPage and south Kenosha counties. Right now, the idea is in its infancy with a series of meetings planned with community leaders, chambers of commerce and other groups like the Sierra Club.
"The question is no longer 'if,' but 'how'?" the tollway's website states.
Former tollway director and state Sen. Bill Morris of Grayslake doesn't buy the makeover.
"The rebranding is offensive and a complete insult to residents of Lake County," he said.
Here's what other stakeholders think.
Northwest Cook communities such as Arlington Heights crave a solution to rush-hour traffic that clogs local streets when Route 53 sputters out at Lake-Cook Road.
"Hopefully, we'll see it in our lifetimes," Arlington Heights Trustee Bert Rosenberg said.
Mayor Thomas Hayes added the village is "generally in favor as a means to help alleviate traffic congestion in town, but I do have some concerns about noise and air pollution for adjacent residents, (and a) funding mechanism."
And, Buffalo Grove Village President Beverly Sussman thinks "it sounds wonderful. It could save us from traffic and congestion -- not only in Lake County. But, how many years will this take?"
McHenry County Chairman Jack Franks is on board, noting that extending Route 53 to Route 120 and improving Route 120 will ease traffic and grow the local economy, creating jobs.
However, Morris warns that the proposed road will likely have high tolls, ultimately stunting economic growth in Lake County and sending jobs to nearby Wisconsin.
Previous extension designs sent the road straight through Long Grove and Village President Bill Jacob is dubious a revamp will erase that.
"Whatever was agreed on (in 2012) isn't on the table anymore," Jacob said. "It's going to be a full-blown ... 55-plus mph highway going through really prime wetlands."
He advocates targeted, less expensive fixes such as widening Route 22.
The project also faces a lawsuit from the Livable Lake County group seeking to halt a $25 million environmental impact study tollway directors approved last July.
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You should know
What has previously doomed extending Route 53 is cost. The state couldn't afford the project and punted it to the tollway, but a price tag of up to $2.7 billion coupled with hefty tolls in Lake County eroded support.
Meanwhile, studying the road isn't cheap. Consultants have billed the tollway about $3 million for the environmental impact study so far, records show.
One more thing
Suburbanites who work in Chicago may be able to grab an express train from downtown to O'Hare International Airport in the future.
The city has narrowed its quest for firms to design, build, pay for and operate the O'Hare Express train to two finalists: The Boring Company and O'Hare Xpress LLC. Planners expect the train will bring travelers to the airport in 20 minutes or less, a nice change from the multistation trip on the CTA Blue Line now.
Proposals from the firms are due in late May.
Daffodils, robins and road work are springing up this week.
• IDOT plans intermittent, daily lane closures on Route 12 in Fox Lake, Spring Grove and Richmond starting today. Workers are improving drainage; construction should wrap up this summer.
• Repairs to the I-190 bridge over Des Plaines River Road in Rosemont begin April 2. Temporary lane and sidewalk closures during off-peak hours will occur until the project is finished in May.