Lauzen wants referendum on Longmeadow toll bridge plan
By Matt Brennan For The Courier-News January 16, 2013 2:36PM
Updated: February 19, 2013 2:05PM
While Kane County is wrapping up the initial engineering phase for the Longmeadow Parkway project north of Carpentersville, there may be more work to do building a consensus on the proposed toll bridge road.
County board Chairman Chris Lauzen told the board’s Transportation Committee on Wednesday that he would like to see hard evidence of public support for the project — which would mean placing a referendum question on the 2014 election ballot.
“The time to avoid trouble is now, in the planning,” he said.
Kane County Deputy Director of Transportation Tom Rickert pointed out that many of the municipalities, as well as Kane and McHenry counties, have passed resolutions to move forward with the project.
Lauzen said he wanted to know now that the public supported the project. “My support for this project is contingent on support in a referendum,” he said.
The project comes with a price tag of $117 million and would provide a new Fox River bridge, as well as a 5.6-mile road stretching from Huntley Road to the west to Route 62 to the east. It would cross Randall Road, Route 31, Route 25 and several smaller roads in between.
The project would relieve traffic congestion in the immediate area, where it can take as long as 50 minutes to travel just a few miles during rush hour, proponents say. It also would operate on a toll system, with drivers paying $1.50 during peak times and $1 to use it during off-peak hours. Drivers would be able to pay tolls using their I-Pass.
Roughly half the project cost — between $50 million and $75 million — would be covered by issuing bonds. State and federal funding, local funding, and the tolls would help make up the difference, according to Rickert.
If the tolls were not able to close the funding gap, Lauzen said, he would prefer to see a system in place where those living in closer proximity to the project would fund the difference before the county as a whole did.
Rickert pointed out that the growing northern Kane County population has increased traffic on area bridges over I-90, Route 72 and Route 62, and that no new bridge has been built in the area since the 1950s.
Transportation Director Carl Schoedel said that they could make the project more manageable by breaking it up into chunks, doing a portion of the road at a time.