The Illinois tollway on Wednesday hosts the first of several public forums on extending Route 53 north into Lake County, but some local mayors think the event was designed to discourage opponents from attending.
The open house runs from 4 to 7 p.m. at Countryside Banquets, 28874 Route 120, in Lakemoor. It will include displays and a video of the proposal, which has been rebranded as the Tri-County Access Project.
It's "just one of the many opportunities that families and business owners will have to share their priorities, concerns and questions when it comes to the transportation network in northern Cook, eastern McHenry and Lake counties," tollway spokesman Dan Rozek said.
However, Hawthorn Woods Mayor Joseph Mancino and Long Grove Village President Bill Jacob told tollway leaders in a letter Sunday the location was too remote for Lake County residents in the path of the road and that the rush-hour timing was problematic.
By locating the event on the far western edge of Lake County and scheduling it during rush-hour, the tollway has distanced the meeting from the bulk of the county's population, the mayors said.
"The people who will be most impacted here in central Lake County are working people, (many) don't get home until 7 p.m.," Mancino said.
The leaders said they want to engage in the process but think the tollway didn't provide enough notice to the public or consult with an advisory group, which they belong to.
"In light of those obstacles, we urge the tollway to schedule another open house within the next 60 days that remedies (those) deficiencies," the mayors wrote.
Rozek said open house invitations were sent 10 days in advance to more than 550 local officials and to I-PASS customers last week. Information also was posted on the project website and tollway's Facebook page.
"Future open houses will be spread throughout the project area," Rozek added.
Tollway consultants are conducting a $25 million study of whether to extend the controversial road north to Route 120, along with other possible improvements.
While supporters of the project hope it will move traffic faster through the region and spur economic growth, opponents are concerned about pollution, cost and the loss of established neighborhoods.