For the fourth time in more than 50 years, a controversial plan to expand the Route 53 corridor in Lake County has been shelved, and this time, activists and some community leaders are hoping that the project will be canceled for good.
On Friday, the Illinois Tollway officially announced its decision to discontinue an environmental study for a proposed extension of Route 53 in a corridor extending from Palatine to Grayslake.
“As of (Friday) afternoon, the Illinois Tollway has asked the Federal Highway Administration to rescind the notice of intent for the Tri-County Access Environmental Impact Statement,” the agency said in a statement.
In its letter explaining the decision, the Tollway cited opposition from community leaders, as well as concerns about a lack of financial support for the project.
A total of $25 million had originally been authorized for the environmental study, and $13 million of it has already been spent, according to officials.
Officials in Hawthorn Woods, a community that would have been impacted by the proposed extension, are now calling on the Tollway, the Illinois Department of Transportation, and the FHA to decommission the project on a permanent basis.
Lake County officials this week also voted to express opposition to the proposal, with the Lake County Board voting unanimously to oppose the exploration of an expansion of Route 53. That new opposition goes in the opposite direction of votes earlier in the decade by the board to continue exploring the project, which aimed to ease traffic congestion in Lake County.
Environmental activists have long opposed the project, saying that it would negatively impact various wildlife areas, including forests and wetlands, along its proposed route.
“Our work is not done yet,” Sierra Club Chair Doug Ower said at a press conference. “The Route 53 extension has to be ended permanently by decommissioning this corridor. This is four times now. We don’t need a fifth attempt.”
Community leaders are now planning to focus on other alternatives to ease traffic congestion in Lake County, including expanding service on Metra lines and improving transit overall in the area.