On Friday the Illinois Tollway announced it would discontinue studies of the long-embattled proposal to extend Route 53 through Lake County, which has jeopardized residents of the Village of Hawthorn Woods and many other communities for generations. In response, Hawthorn Woods Mayor Joseph Mancino issued the following statement:
The Village of Hawthorn Woods thanks Illinois Tollway Executive Director José Alvarez for terminating this latest round of studies on the controversial Route 53 Extension. This decision appears to recognize that the same conditions that have derailed every other bid to extend Route 53 – a glaring lack of political consensus in support of the project and a chronic shortage of funds to build it – remain facts of life today.
We hope that this decision represents the permanent demise of the proposed extension, so that Lake County can begin efforts to make the transportation improvements that we can all agree on. Those concepts include arterial lane widenings, grade separations where roads cross railroads, and enhanced commuter rail service. After all, these common-sense and cost-effective improvements to the Lake County’s transportation system have languished for decades, while one futile effort after another was mounted to extend Route 53.
In the wake of this decision, we call on the Tollway, the Illinois Department of Transportation, and the Federal Highway Administration to decommission the Route 53 corridor and work with relevant state and local agencies to convert it into a permanent greenway for public recreational use and environmental stewardship.
Dating back to when the state first proposed the extension in the 1960s, it has spent massive sums of money on repeated studies of the project and land purchases linked to its right-of-way. And each time, those efforts resulted in the same outcome: An admission that there is too much opposition, too little money, and too great of a negative impact to the environment to warrant the continued studies of the project. And all that time, Lake County commuters remained mired in traffic congestion that could have been eased through other avenues.
After six decades, the record is clear: Grassroots opposition to the project is staunch; money to build it is too scarce; and the irreparable damage it would inflict on Lake County’s treasured, but fragile, natural areas is severe.
Let’s put our roadbuilders to work now, instead of lining the pockets of consultants with millions of dollars that could be invested in our infrastructure. With this decision in place, Lake County can finally advance our local plan to effectively relieve traffic congestion, protect the beauty of our landscape, and enhance our collective quality of life.
Mayor Joseph Mancino
Village of Hawthorn Woods