The State of Illinois has long considered a northern extension of Illinois Route 53 through central Lake County. Since the early 1960s, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (the Tollway) and many other state and local agencies have been involved in planning for road improvements in the Central Lake County Corridor. Over the years, growth in population, increasing environmental pressures, desire for new economic development, and rising congestion have led to a revival of the conversation around a new road.
In response to these challenges and the need for a coordinated, transparent, and accountable approach, a Blue Ribbon Advisory Council (BRAC) was established by the Tollway in the fall of 2011. The Council was tasked with developing a regional consensus on first, whether the Tollway should move forward; and if so determining the scope and configuration, the design elements, and potential funding for the project.
The Liberty Prairie Foundation played a key role in the BRAC and helped to shape an ambitious plan with a rigorous set of recommendations. With the Foundation’s leadership and close collaboration with a diverse set of partners and stakeholders, the BRAC successfully reached a consensus resulting in the adoption of the Resolution and Summary Report in May 2012. The BRAC recommendations codify a blueprint for a 21st Century “modern boulevard” with design and environmental requirements that will protect the natural environment while preserving the character of Lake County. This represents a significant shift in how the county and state envision meeting the county’s transportation needs.
George A. Ranney, Jr., Liberty Prairie Foundation Board Member, served as Co-Chair of the BRAC and Michael Sands, Ph.D., Senior Associate, served on the BRAC as the Chair of the Environmental and Sustainability Working Group. The Tollway’s Strategic Planning Committee reviewed the BRAC report and as a result agreed to develop an engineering concept and funding scenarios and evaluate local, state, and federal authorizations required for the project. They also agreed to participate in two follow-up committees led by Lake County and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP).
In late 2013, the Tollway established a Finance Committee to consider detailed project information from the feasibility analysis to develop a financing strategy for the project. Brad Leibov, President and CEO, serves on the Finance Committee and is the Chair of the Environmental Restoration and Stewardship Fund Working Group. The Finance Committee is expected to complete its work by mid-2015.
In parallel with the Tollway’s Finance Committee, CMAP is leading a corridor Land Use Committee comprised of representatives of local municipalities and other stakeholders. The Land Use Committee will participate in and help guide the land use planning process. George A. Ranney, Jr., Liberty Prairie Foundation Board Member, serves as Co-Chair of the Land Use Committee. Brad Leibov and Mike Sands also serve on the Land Use Committee. The Land Use Committee is expected to complete its work in late 2015.
Route 53/120 has been featured in the media as follows: