Did You Know?
Tri-County Access is a comprehensive study that will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement which will determine once and for all how to regionally address traffic congestion in Lake, Cook and McHenry counties. The region’s population has seen continued growth but the transportation network hasn’t kept up, creating congestion and gridlock. It doesn’t need to be that way – and the sooner we determine a course of action, the sooner we can improve the quality of life for residents, commuters and employers. The Tri-County Access Project will examine a wide range of alternatives, relying on engineering and environmental analyses as well as stakeholder involvement and public input to reach a decision on the best path forward.
An Environmental Impact Statement is required under the National Environmental Protection Act and is the most in-depth federal process to consider any and all impacts on land, water, air structures and wildlife. While the project was commissioned by the Illinois Tollway, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Highway Administration.
The study will examine how the State and regional transportation providers can proceed in addressing the region’s transportation needs in a fiscally responsible and environmentally friendly manner. The study brings together more than 85 cities and villages in Lake, Cook, and McHenry counties, and will examine the benefits and impacts of potential strategies identified by stakeholders.
The Tri-County Access project team has reached out to local communities to identify specific transportation needs in the project area. A Stakeholder Participation Group made up of more than 150 leaders and organizations is providing input throughout the project process. Meanwhile, a comprehensive analysis of existing transportation conditions is underway. Together, community input and analysis findings will be used to develop the project Purpose and Need.
Ideas and recommendations from the public are vital to our efforts. The project team records all comments, which may be submitted via the website, at public meetings, or via letters. Feedback we receive from the public, along with technical analysis, will be considered throughout the project. Both will be especially valuable at key milestones, such as shaping the project’s “purpose and need” statement. Feedback will also be instrumental as we develop and evaluate project alternatives.
At this point, there is no firm construction timeline as the study is just beginning to identify a reasonable range of alternatives (developed with input from stakeholders) – including no construction.
Will the study consider greenways, pedestrian trails and other alternatives outside of road construction?
A range of alternatives that includes transit, active transportation, and roadways will be examined. Additionally, the study will consider different configurations for those alternatives, including greenways and parkways.
From start to finish, the Tri-County Access Project will be an open and unbiased process. As the analysis takes shape, information will be shared, including summaries of our work and technical reports. These will be available on this project website. The team will also work closely with project stakeholders, such as municipal officials and Stakeholder Participation Group members, who will also receive these materials and be encouraged to share them with the public. Additionally, we encourage you to attend future Public Information Meetings or visit the project website to view solutions under consideration and to provide your comments.
Residents and businesses have survived traffic this long, is congestion really that much of a problem?
Congestion is already a huge source of frustration for residents and employers, and it is only going to get worse. The region’s population continues to grow each and every year – and it’s projected to grow by 25 percent over the next 30 years. If we continue to grow at that rate and nothing is done to improve our transportation network, the average traveling speed for area commuters will drop to 14 miles an hour within 20 years.
Any pertinent information from previous studies will be incorporated into this one to avoid any redundancy. However, the most recent comprehensive study is nearly 20 years old and more recent studies have focused on the Illinois 53 corridor and not examined alternative solutions. We need to take a comprehensive approach and conduct a definitive study based on updated population, employment, and travel demand forecasts. It’s also important to note that this analysis may very well reach far different conclusions than previous studies.
A northern extension of Illinois Route 53 and related improvements along the Illinois Route 120 corridor has been talked about for decades. What makes you think anything will happen this time?
Various traffic relief projects have been talked about for a long time, but nothing has materialized. As a result, our population has grown while our roads and infrastructure have remained stagnant, leading to extreme traffic congestion. This study will examine a reasonable range of alternatives (which will be developed with input from stakeholders) – from new transportation strategies to no construction – and be critical in determining the best approach for our residents, communities and environment.
The Illinois Route 53 extension has literally been talked about for decades. Why are you studying it again?
The Tri-County Access Project will move beyond an extension of IL 53 and examine a wide range of potential solutions to reduce traffic congestion and increase mobility. Maybe an extension of IL 53 or other road construction is the answer, maybe it’s not – this comprehensive, regional approach will make that determination once and for all.
The study will identify the potential environmental effects of the alternatives being studied. While environmental impacts are possible with every alternative, the study will emphasize designs that avoid and minimize impacts where possible. Where impacts are unavoidable, the study will examine opportunities to mitigate the impacts, which may involve protection and enhancement of natural resources. It is important to consider that not taking action may also have environmental impacts, such as lower air quality due to idling vehicles, and these potential effects will also be examined as part of the study.
The Illinois Tollway’s Board unanimously approved the study in May 2017. The study will be paid for through the agency’s existing budget and at no additional cost to taxpayers.
Any recommendation from the study must include a fiscally responsible strategy for paying for it. It is impossible to address financing until a preferred course of action, with a cost estimate, is determined.