Lake County trafficChicago Tribune - May 14, 2017 | original article

By Mary Wisniewski

Lake County has many beauties — the lakes, the forest preserves, the antiques stores.

But one place you don't want to be is on Illinois Route 120 during rush hour, when congestion causes major backups on the partly two-lane highway that runs east/west through the center of the county.

Widening and realigning parts of Route 120 are part of a long-discussed proposal to extend Illinois Route 53 north to Lake County and turn it into a T-shaped tollway, with Route 120 at the top.

But the 53/120 plan appears to be ailing. Key supporters have backed out. The Illinois Tollway voted in December 2015 to spend up to $50 million for a comprehensive environmental study, but nothing has happened.

Meanwhile, communities along Route 120, also known as Belvidere Road, have grown tired of waiting. The county's population has almost doubled in the past 50 years, and a road that had served a mostly rural area is now a key suburban connection. Local officials want to work with federal, state and county leaders to fix the troubled route soon, regardless of whether the ambitious Route 53 component ever happens.

"I think 120 is the number one priority that Lake County needs," said Lake County Board Chair Aaron Lawlor, who dropped his support for the Route 53 expansion last year. "That's the number one project that's been held hostage by 53 in the last 50 years."

Grayslake Village Manager Mike Ellis said he did not have an opinion on Route 53. "My concern is 120 and what can be done," Ellis said.

Grayslake and the communities of Lakemoor, Volo, Round Lake, Round Lake Park and Hainesville got together to come up with a consensus list of Belvidere Road improvements. Ellis said the communities want to focus local and state leaders' attention on Route 120.

"It's a long road to get to the road," Ellis said. "The quicker we can get these specific improvements on people's minds, the better."

State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, said her office will hold meetings over the summer with the Illinois Department of Transportation, road builders and other stakeholders about Route 120.

"These are improvements that have needed to be done in the last 20 years," Bush said.

Read the full story...

Category: In The News

Illinois Senate chamberABC7 Chicago - May 10, 2017 | original article

Republicans cut short an attempt by Illinois Senate Democrats to recharge the "grand bargain" budget compromise with time running out on the legislative session.

The grand bargain is a package of legislation Senate leaders designed last winter to break what has become a two-year logjam on an annual spending plan.

But sticking points continue to be GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner's demands for restrictions on workers' compensation payouts and a permanent property tax freeze for homeowners.

The Senate voted 35-15 to give local governments flexibility on paying debts. It's one of the few measures with bipartisan support in a package that's supposed to help break a logjam on a state budget deal.

Democratic Senate President John Cullerton of Chicago then tried to call workers' comp and tax-freeze legislation Rauner won't accept. Republican Leader Chrstine Radogno of Lemont declined to let her bills go up for a vote.

Cullerton says he can't compromise on the bills further. Radogno says he has to and that the two sides are "very close."

State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) released a statement, saying, "For months, Senate Republicans and the governor have said, 'Just one more thing and the deal will be good. We just need a little more time.' We've changed the Grand Bargain bills over 30 times to meet Republican demands. We tried compromising on non-budgetary reforms, but the Republicans and Governor Rauner have made it clear that no compromise will ever be good enough. They say they need a little more time, but we don't have any more time. The end of session is just three weeks away. The people of Illinois can't wait any longer. Passing a balanced budget must be our sole focus."

The state has gone two years without a budget. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and legislative Democrats have tussled over a tax increase to battle a deficit while Rauner demands regulatory changes such as restrictions on workers' compensation payouts and a freeze on local property taxes.

Category: In The News

US CapitolIllinois News Network - May 8, 2017 | original article

By Cole Lauterbach

Illinois state senators progressed a bill that would have removed President Donald Trump from the ballot in Illinois if it were law last year.

The sponsor, State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, says his legislation would require any presidential candidate wishing to appear on Illinois' ballot to disclose the previous five years of tax returns to the Illinois Secretary of State's office, who would then make them public.

"I think this gives the voters the ability to evaluate the candidates standing before them for the most powerful office in the history of the world," he said.

Trump declined to disclose his tax information, saying he was under audit.

State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, says people have a right to know this information.

"Seeing someone who's running for president's tax return is something we expect," she said.

Read the full story...

Category: In The News

Illinois Highway 120 signDaily Herald - April 21, 2017 | original article

By Mick Zawislak

Communities along Route 120 in central Lake County say the congestion faced by as many as 26,900 drivers every day must be addressed, regardless of whether a proposed Route 53 extension is built.

The state highway is the east-west spine of central Lake County, carrying drivers from Lakemoor to Waukegan. But it is two lanes for much of that length, and long backups occur in various locations during rush hours.

Congestion at off-peak times is a growing problem, and community leaders contend traffic will worsen because of expected development on the corridor's west end.

Although improvements have been tied to the proposed extension of Route 53 north from Lake-Cook Road to Route 120, the plan calls for a bypass of Grayslake, leaving much of the existing highway as is. And given that the idea of an extension has been around since the 1960s, any significant relief for the existing Route 120 corridor is thought to be well down the road, if at all.

With that in mind, officials from Lakemoor, Volo, Round Lake, Round Lake Park, Hainesville and Grayslake began meeting more than a year ago to discuss the challenges and identify priorities for improvements not hitched to the Route 53 plan.

"The (Route 120) corridor itself always gets tied up in the Route 53 project," Grayslake Village Manager Mike Ellis said. "The towns are doing their homework."

Hainesville Mayor Linda Soto said the proposed Route 53 extension and Route 120 improvements need to be addressed.

"It's not one or the other," she said.

"These improvements that we'll be recommending are needed no matter what happens," added Steve Shields, Round Lake's village administrator.

Grayslake contributed about $10,000 for consultant costs. A list of 14 improvement projects, mainly adding turn lanes at intersections, were identified at an estimated cost of $45.5 million.

"Each of those individual projects make sense, are not overreaching and have been needed for 20 years," said state Sen. Melinda Bush, a Grayslake resident whose district includes the corridor.

"There are just improvements all along Route 120 that need to happen. (Route) 53 has held us up for a long time," she said.

The single largest identified project is $16 million to rebuild and add lanes at routes 120 and 83 in Grayslake, where backups are legendary because of a railroad crossing. Building an underpass would cost an additional $15 million.

Because Route 120 is regarded as a single transportation system, any improvement benefits the entire corridor, Soto said.

The suggestions are not intended as a substitute for an eventual bypass, participants say.

"The traffic on the existing (Route) 120 is not really going to get lighter if we do a bypass," said Soto, a Route 53 supporter. "It will just stop getting worse."

The town leaders hope to present a unified front to whatever agencies or entities can provide funding.

Bush said she plans this summer to convene the communities, county and state transportation officials, environmental concerns, road builders and others to get the ball rolling. Funding is a question, but Bush said specific projects need to be identified and developed to the point they are ready to build if and when money becomes available.

Category: In The News