The Illinois Tollway board on Thursday unanimously approved spending $25 million for an environmental impact study on a long-discussed proposed extension of Route 53 from Cook County into Lake County.
The 8-0 vote came after more than two hours of comments from people for and against the controversial project. Representatives from several construction companies spoke in favor of the study, saying the extension would bring jobs and relieve congestion in a growing region. Environmental groups and officials from the suburbs of Hawthorn Woods and Long Grove spoke against, noting the extension's projected $2.65 billion cost and its potential negative impact on wetlands.
The contract to study the extension was awarded to two engineering firms — CH2M Hill and Knight E/A Inc., based in Englewood, Colo., and Chicago, respectively. Both have worked with the Tollway before.
Board chairman Robert Schillerstrom said the study, which is expected to take three to five years, will provide a fact-based evaluation on alternatives that will achieve the most congestion relief for the region while balancing environmental impacts.