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High price for Kane Co. toll bridge
The traffic relief it'll provide questioned
By James Fuller | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/15/2008 12:05 AM

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A project designed to ease traffic congestion in northern Kane County may be a tough sell for taxpayers even with the promise of a faster commute.

The Longmeadow Parkway Toll Bridge would create a new four-lane Fox River bridge and a 5.6-mile roadway stretching from Huntley Road to Route 62. The idea is to provide another river crossing that moves some of the heavy traffic burden off I-90, Route 72 and Route 62.

But on Thursday, the task force of Kane and McHenry County officials examining the project learned the Longmeadow Parkway Toll Bridge may divert only about 16,000 vehicles per day away from those other roads if it opened in 2013.

The costs of the project are yet to be calculated, but early budget projections show up to $80 million of borrowing may be in store for taxpayers.

To look at it another way, an $80 million toll bridge that moves 16,000 vehicles off other roads translates to a traffic congestion relief project that costs $5,000 for each car diverted daily from the existing bumper-to-bumper routes over the river.

Longmeadow Parkway Toll Bridge Task Force Chairman Bill Wyatt said he realizes that sounds like a lot of money versus the estimated benefit.

But Wyatt said he believes the actual number of cars that would use the new toll bridge would be much higher, bringing more relief than the initial conservative estimate.

"My gut feeling is it'll be used," said Wyatt, who is also the chairman of the Kane County Board's Transportation Committee.

There was at least one more piece of news that may be hard to swallow for hopeful commuters Thursday night.

Consultants recommended the toll for the bridge be set at $1.50 during peak commute hours to maximize the income for the county. That income would go to pay off the debt incurred to build the bridge and possibly help establish a self-sustaining fund to pay for the operation and maintenance of the bridge itself.

Wyatt pledged Thursday that any toll collected on the bridge would disappear once the debt incurred to build it is paid off.

"That's the least we can do," Wyatt said.

The task force is tentatively set to meet again on Oct. 16. By that time there should be cost estimates for the project.