Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Tollway Forum draws discussion of Route 53 extension
By Amy Alderman TribLocal reporter Friday at 6:43 p.m. (
Most people in the standing-room only crowd that recently packed an Illinois Tollway forum in
But since Gov. Pat Quinn supports a west bypass on the Elgin-O’Hare expressway as the next project for the tollway system, Route 53 lingers at the bottom of the state’s top five projects for the next ten years.
“We heard a clear message from voters,” Lake County Board Chairman Dave Stolman said at the Illinois Tollway Capital Planning Forum on July 15. “They want 53 built. We know the extension is vital to economic development. It would promote diversity in our tax base. We are pleased and excited the tollway is considering these projects.”
Although it’s not first, neither is the Route 53 extension last on the tollway’s to-do list. Many other prospective Tollway road projects are not in the 10-year plan, said Bill Morris, a director on the Illinois Tollway board.
Plus, building a toll extension of Route 53 is an alternative to not building an expressway expansion at all, when state funds aren’t there to make it happen.
That way the drivers who are using the road would be the ones paying for the extension, tollway officials said. In the meantime, the tollway system is paying for projects as it goes while grappling with just $5.1 billion in projected revenue and $6.1 billion in projected costs, leaving a $1.1 billion gap, said Kristi Lafleur, Illinois Tollway executive director.
“Route 53 has made the cut. It’s not going away, but one year is just a way to figure out what we’re doing about it,” he said. “This is going to cost a bucket full of money.”
That’s why tollway officials appointed 25 people to an Illinois Route 53 Blue Ribbon Advisory Council on June 30. Members are both for and against the extending the expressway through
The advisory council has been charged with developing a regional consensus on whether or not to move forward on the Illinois Route 53 extension, the scope and configuration, the design and elements, and how to finance the project, according to the Illinois Tollway.
“It is daunting to move from controversy to consensus,” said George Ranney, who was appointed by Illinois Tollway officials as council co-chair, along with Stolman.
Ranney has historically been against a Route 53 extension. Tollway officials found a way to bend his ear to get involved in this round of the discussions because of new technologies that would lessen the impact on the environment, and the expertise of the diverse Blue Ribbon panel.
“The advisory council has a whole lot of promise,” he said. “There are ways of working the road through wetlands to avoid a
But not everyone is for the extension.
Mary Mathews, a Lake County League of Women Voters representative, said that the 2009 Lake County Referendum showing a 76 percent approval rating for the extension isn’t an accurate portrayal of what residents want. Several people noted that the referendum didn’t include information about using tolls to pay for an extension.
There were 89,522 votes cast in that election, which makes up 22 percent of registered voters in
“We are for the upkeep of the current system, but 76 percent of people were voting for it on a light turnout. That was not 76 percent of residents,” Mathews said. “We need mass transportation. We do not need more roads. That should be the primary focus, and taking care of what we already have.”
Environmentalists as well as some officials overseeing the wetlands where the extension would run through were also not all in favor of the extension.
“I have historically been opposed to the road because it could impact a wetland,” said Maria Rodriguez, Long Grove President. “We have got to be very careful on how we protect natural drainage system.”
Members of the Lake County Audubon Society, the Liberty Prairie Foundation and the Environmental Law and
“The bottom line is the roads have been impressive,” Sarah Wochos, senior policy advocate. “We want to make sure we minimize the impact. We remain optimistic about the future.”
There were many jeers about the discussion of extending Route 53 farther into
“This is the time to fish or cut bait,” Morris said.
LWV-LC Testimony Regarding Redistricting at Lake County Board Meeting 6-14-11
Many of you are familiar with the League of Women Voters. We work with Willard on voter registration. We have held non-partisan candidate forums for many of you when you ran for office. And then, we also advocate on issues such as: transparency in government. This past year, at the state level, the League worked with a number of organizations to try to get the Fair Map Amendment passed, which the Republican Party supported.
When Chairman Stolman contacted the League along with two other organizations MALDEF and the NAACP, we were happy with the prospect of being involved with the redistricting process. He assured us it would not be political and would not be a repeat of Springfield's shenanigans. Each of you was sent an email of our expectations for the process.
So now today, the full County Board is being asked to vote on the map that the Reapportionment Committee has proposed and approved last week.
The other day, there was a news article that Mr. Stolman said the three organizations, MALDEF, NAACP and the League of Women Voters, found the map to be fair. I am here to dispel any misconceptions about our reactions to the proposed map. The three organizations do believe that the map complies with the Voting Rights Act, and having 4 districts for minority voters is fair. However, we do not believe that the lack of transparency, lack of public notice, and lack of public input is fair. And then there is the gerrymandering! Unfortunately, the Reapportionment Committee did exactly what Mr. Stolman said they would not do: they based the districts on politics and they used Springfield's play book. The only difference was that it was the Republicans not the Democrats.
Years ago, someone who rose pretty high in state government explained that politics was helping your friends and hurting your enemies.
Let's look at some questionable parts of the map. See the northern boundary of District 8. There is a little 2 block section that has been cut out of District 8 and included in District 2. Who does that help and who does that hurt? Or do you really think that small area was excluded to get the population count right?
Let's look at another area. Part of the redistricting process is to keep a municipality intact, so uniting Grayslake into one district seems like a good idea. Although nearby Round Lake Beach is divided into 3 districts, and Gurnee is divided into 4 districts. But currently Grayslake has 2 Democratic incumbents who now will have to face off against each other. And on the eastern side of the county, we find another new district with 2 incumbent Democrats - Audrey Nixon and Angelo Kyle. One would think with a Board of 13 Republican and 10 Democrats, the odds would be that 2 Republicans would be in the same district or possibly one Republican and one Democrat.
Now, for interesting gerrymandering, let's look at the southeast corner, districts 12, 13 and 21. District 21 has become ever more ridiculous than before. Poor little Deerfield was in one district, now is in three. Part of it has been combined with Lake Forest. Lake Forest's natural partner of Lake Bluff has been cut off into a new District combined with parts of North Chicago, Waukegan, and Gurnee. What exactly do those communities share in common? If Susan Gravenhorst weren't retiring, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff would not be separated. So again, who benefits? and who gets hurt?
I think we should just acknowledge that this map was not drawn to benefit the residents of Lake County, but instead, was indeed political to help the majority party. Let's hope that the next time around, we have a better process that serves the people, and allows them to vote for their representatives, and does not just protect the jobs of the incumbents in the majority party.