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Route 53 extension project takes another step forward

Looking southwest Route 83 Winchester Road part Route 53 extensiroute just west Midlothian Road Mundelein. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

Looking southwest on Route 83 at Winchester Road, part of the Route 53 extension route, just west of Midlothian Road, in Mundelein. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 9, 2013 7:22PM

The Route 53 extension moved another step beyond the concept stage in recent weeks as Lake County officials fielded a $940,000 grant from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) to float a Corridor Land Use and Transportation Plan that will be heavy on local input.

Accompanied by $625,000 in matching funds primarily from the Illinois Tollway, the grant will cover the hiring of a consulting firm that will work with area elected officials and other stakeholders “to really cover what the tollway would look like,” said Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor.

“There are two things going on right now with Route 53,” Lawlor said Wednesday, July 10.

“The Tollway’s working on a feasibility study that’s about $4 million, and they’re looking at things like cost estimates and environmental work. (A) lot of the numbers were roughly estimated, so they want to get tighter numbers on costs and revenues.

“The corridor plan is a much more local process,” he added, saying that factors under study will include “how much open space we want to have and how much land will be available for economic development.”

The CMAP funds for Lake County, announced in June, were part of a $16.8 million package of Federal Transit Administration and Federal Highway Administration dollars distributed by the regional planning agency.

The funding included $4.96 million in local matches, and Lawlor said the Route 53 study is scheduled to include a $74,000 contribution from the county.

The next step is for the county to put out a request for proposals to select a consultant.

At the July 9 County Board meeting, Lawlor said “hopefully we’ll have that in place by the fall and then begin the process of engaging our communities, our environmental leaders and our businesses.”

Funding for the corridor study comes a year after the Illinois Route 53/120 Blue Ribbon Advisory Council voted to recommend construction of “a 21st century road in Lake County” that would extend Route 53 north from its dead-end at Lake Cook Road.

The proposed four-lane, 45-mph parkway would stretch 12.5 miles from the county line to Grayslake and would include improvements west on Route 120 through the Round Lake area.

The council estimated that such a project would cost between $2.3 billion and $2.7 billion, funded through tolls and other public revenue sources.

The council specifically called for development of a corridor study “that integrates land use, transportation, economic development, open space (and) community character goals across municipalities to encourage development of vibrant communities in central Lake County.”

The recommendation added that a corridor study should “develop and apply innovations in all aspects of the project to create a 21st Century modern boulevard that serves as a national and international model.”

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