Chicago: A new study from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) shows that extending Route 53 into Lake County would not only alleviate traffic congestion—but would create thousands of jobs, spur more long-term economic benefits than any other proposed regional transportation project, and reduce commute times by 20-30%. A new poll released with the study shows that Lake County voters support the project by a nearly four-to-one margin.
Read the Full Study Here.
Read the Polling Results Here.
A 12.5-mile extension of Route 53 into Lake County has been discussed as part of Chicago’s transportation planning process since the 1960s. In the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s (CMAP) “GO TO 2040” Long Range plan, Route 53 extension was recognized as a priority project that is anticipated to have the highest congestion reduction benefits compared to all other regional capital projects. CMAP has also issued forecasts showing that Lake County’s population growth is expected to outpace the Chicago metro region as a whole by 2040, with the heaviest concentrations expected to be adjacent to the proposed Route 53/120 extension project.
“With 51% of Lake County residents working outside the county, our analysis of traffic patterns and expected growth shows that failing to build more efficient north-south transportation corridors— particularly in the western part of county— might be the single greatest threat to Lake County’s economy and quality of life by 2040,” said study author Mary Craighead, AICP. “This project would also directly generate thousands of good-paying construction jobs, indirectly generate thousands more by making more land desirable for development, and could save local commuters thousands of dollars in travel time every year.”
The poll, conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove, found that Lake County residents were very familiar with the long-discussed project, were highly supportive of it, and recognized that the project would both create jobs and alleviate traffic. Additionally, respondents indicated that they would be more likely to vote for elected officials who supported the project.
Despite consistent community support for the project, development of a more detailed land use and plan to move the project forward had been elusive, until recently. In 2011, the Illinois State Tollway Highway Authority (ISTHA) created a Blue-Ribbon Advisory Council (BRAC) made up of 30 local community stakeholders to build consensus around location and design features and a financing model for the project. After several years of public deliberations, the BRAC’s land use and financing committees ultimately approved a set of recommendations in 2015.
The proposed project would cost an estimated $2.5 billion, and would be funded through a combination of tolls, local fuel and non-residential real estate taxes, and funding from ISTHA. ILEPI estimates that, even after accounting for financing needs, a commuter could net more than $2,300 in annual benefits from shorter commute times.
In 2015, ISTHA voted to undertake a four-year Environmental Impact Study (EIS) to implement the BRAC recommendations, yet the EIS has not yet received a full funding commitment. Project supporters are looking to Governor Rauner to lend his support to the completion of the EIS, and ILEPI’s study contends that there is ample reason to move forward.
“Once thought of as controversial, the proposed Route 53/120 extension is a reflection of not only sustained local consensus— but of demographic changes, economic needs, and quality-of-life imperatives,” Craighead concluded. “Both quantitatively and qualitatively, it is clear that the long-term benefits that this project will ultimately deliver to all who live, work, and commute through Lake County will far outweigh any short-term costs.”
In Support of Route 53/120: Understanding the Transportation, Economic, and Local Impacts of a Modern Roadway
The Illinois Economic Policy Institute is a nonprofit organization which supports research and provides timely, candid, and dynamic analyses on major subjects affecting the economies of Illinois and the Midwest, specializing in the construction industry. The Illinois Economic Policy Institute evaluates and generates public policies that empower individuals, policymakers, and lawmakers to make a positive impact.