Today the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority formally moved to halt work on the controversial Route 53 extension by notifying the Federal Highway Administration that it is rescinding the authorization of the current Environmental Impact Statement. The move comes after decades of controversy over the high cost and environmental damage the project would have brought to Lake County, and action this week by the Lake County Board to remove the project as a focus of the County’s transportation plan.
Lake County residents, leaders, and motorists welcomed the Tollway’s action and pledged to work collaboratively to move other transportation solutions forward to address traffic congestion and plan for a future Lake County with high mobility, prosperity, equity, and quality of life.
“This is a real victory for the people of Lake County,” said Doug Ower, Chair of the Sierra Club’s Woods and Wetlands Group. “For decades, planners from outside Lake County tried to bulldoze Route 53 right through neighborhoods and natural areas, but citizens did not give up and demanded better solutions. We applaud the new leadership at the Tollway for listening to the public – now we can all move forward together on traffic solutions that create jobs and sustain our quality of life.”
Tony Dean, resident and former Mayor of the Village of Long Grove, said “After wasting 56 years on four failed attempts, the Route 53 extension must finally be completely abandoned and work at last begun on traffic solutions we can achieve in our life times. I am 74 years old so we need to get going.”
“The Route 53 corridor borders the backyards of dozens of homes for hundreds of residents and consists of over 60 wetland areas that serve as invaluable habitats for plant and wildlife species, some of which are protected and endangered,” said Anna Pieta of Save Indian Creek Wetlands. “These areas are critical for flood control and biodiversity, and now they can be protected for future generations.”
“We are delighted that the Tollway now recognizes what we’ve been saying all along: The Rt.53/120 extension is unaffordable, unneeded and unfair,” said Barbara Klipp, executive director of the Midwest Sustainability Group. “Now it’s time to move on by retiring the corridor and developing a better transportation plan for Lake County that is modern, multimodal, reduces our trip times, improves our air quality, reduces Greenhouse Gasses, protects our valuable open space and positions Lake County to be competitive in the 21st century economy.”
“I am heartened with this result,” said George Ranney co-chairman of the Blue Ribbon Advisory Council. “The Tollway is to be commended for putting a stop to the misbegotten work it had commissioned to study the subject several years ago. Everyone knows that Lake County deserves and needs better transportation, and it is imperative that it be done well. And now we can move forward with modern day roads and related transportation, some of it in line with the BRAC report and present realities. I thank the private citizens and the environmental organizations who worked so hard over the years to get this done, and I have high hopes that the new State administration will get it right this time.”
Bill Morris, former state senator and director of the Tollway board spoke of the importance of implementing alternatives: “Our 50+ year battle is not over until the Tollway, the State of Illinois and Lake County commit funding to affordable congestion relief solutions like a rail overpass at Rt. 120/83, and adding longer turning lanes to existing roadways. The Illinois Department of Transportation should also engage these communities in a process to determine the ultimate use of the state-owned road corridor, potentially including open space protection and other local government needs.”
Regional leaders are also welcoming the Tollway’s decision.
“As a former member of the Blue-Ribbon Advisory Council, we congratulate the Tollway and the Lake County Board for moving beyond the Route 53 Extension towards multi-modal transportation solutions that will make Lake County more prosperous and resilient to climate change. It demonstrates that transportation projects don’t have to sacrifice our communities, our health and some of the finest natural landscapes in the country. This decision opens the door to true consensus in how reclaiming the Route 53 corridor can offer vital linear connections and world class amenities to the county and the region,” said Gerald Adelmann, President and CEO of Openlands
“Our region needs to think beyond highways and invest in a sustainable transportation network that protects our natural resources – and this is a big step in the right direction,” said Bob Dean, President of the Center for Neighborhood Technology. “As a former member of the Blue Ribbon Advisory Council, we applaud the Lake County Board and the Tollway for making the decision to change direction on the Route 53 Extension project.”
Moving forward together,
Sierra Club Illinois – Jack Darin, Chapter Director (312) 229-4690
Sierra Club Woods and Wetlands Group – Doug Ower, Executive Committee Chair
Midwest Sustainability Group – Barbara Klipp, Executive Director (847) 986-6900
Open Lands – Gerald Adelmann, President and CEO
Tony Dean, Former Village President of The Village of Long Grove (847) 366-0660
Bill Morris, Former State Senator and Director of the Tollway
Livable Lake County – Sam Beard, Staff Organizer (630) 453-3155
Friends of Indian Creek Wetlands – Anna Pieta, Larry Friedrichs, Executive Directors
Center for Neighborhood Technology – Bob Dean, President