IL 53/120 Extension Will Come With New, $2.87 Billion Price Tag

Revised cost estimates for all 25 miles of a Route 53/120 extension in 2020 dollars now include a high-end figure of $2.87 billion, nearly $500 million more than a low-end estimate aired last year.

New price ranges were revealed Tuesday, Dec. 3, at a finance committee meeting of the Route 53/120 Blue Ribbon Advisory Council (BRAC), the public/private panel that recommended construction of the roadway in June 2012.

Meeting for the second time since October, the finance committee is tasked with determining whether or not a four-lane tolled parkway is economically feasible and if the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority should build it.

Christopher Burke, a consulting engineer for the tollway, told a gathering of more than 50 advisory council members at the Lake County Division of Transportation headquarters in Libertyville that the new range of cost estimates came in at $2.56 billion to $2.87 billion.

Noting that the advisory council’s 2012 study featured a range of $2.39 billion to $2.71 billion, Burke said the two sets of numbers “were very close, and I believe the work that we’ve done validates the work done by BRAC.”

According to numbers reviewed Tuesday, the $2.87 billion estimate would encompass the 12.5-mile Route 53 extension north from Lake Cook Road to Grayslake and the 12.5-mile, alternate Route 120 between the Tri-State Tollway and Wilson Road.

The largest single component in that overall total would be $632 million for construction, followed by such items as $515 million for engineering, $361 million worth of structures, $228 worth of right-of-way purchases and $242 million in environmental mitigation.

The total also carries a contingency of 30 percent, or $457 million, an amount that officials say would go down to as low as 10 percent as the project came closer to reality.

The new feasibility estimates feature such specific details as 37 crossroad bridges, 18 miles of below-grade roadway with berms, nine local interchanges, three railroad grade separations and two system interchanges, including one at Route 120 and the Tri-State.

Environmental attributes include seven stream crossings — from Buffalo Creek on the south to Squaw Creek on the north — and 18 wildlife underpasses. A total of 468 acres of wetlands would be mitigated, and 90,000 feet of noisewalls would be installed.

As in past advisory council meetings, officials stressed that the project would not be able to pay for itself based on anticipated toll revenue. According to Jeff Hall, a consultant with TranSystems, estimated bonding capacity for the proposal currently comes in at $300 to $400 million.

While the finance committee is exploring avenues to increase that figure, Hall said “regardless of what that bonding capacity will be, there will still be a large gap … Funding from tolls on the new roadway is insufficient to cover the project’s costs.”

Among the 18 different added-revenue options discussed Tuesday were creating a special sales tax or motor-fuel tax for Lake County residents, establishing tolls on the current Route 53 in Cook County, increasing existing tolls at the Waukegan Toll Plaza and adding a toll plaza at Route 132 on the Tri-State.

Committee members are expected to produce more specific revenue numbers for a meeting scheduled in March. In the longer term, the committee’s goal is to draft a recommendation in November 2014 and forward it to the Tollway Board of Directors in December 2014.

Full story originally published here.

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