Longmeadow toll hot topic in Kane County Board races
The candidates for two northern Kane County Board districts aren't pleased with plans to charge a 95-cent toll to fund a new bridge over the Fox River. But if drivers aren't charged for using the roadway, how else would the final piece of the Longmeadow Parkway project be funded?
The proposed toll, which would repay bonds needed for bridge construction and maintenance, is one of the most unpopular components of the already controversial project. Aspiring board members for districts 21 and 23 -- where the incumbents are not seeking re-election -- are grappling to find a solution for what they say is one of the most prominent issues facing their portion of the county.
Republican Jim Patrician and Democrat Chris Kious, both of Algonquin, are vying to represent District 23, where the bridge would be built. The issue has also been of great concern to residents in nearby District 21, where Democrat Tara Jacobsen of Dundee Township and Republican Cliff Surges of Gilberts are seeking the board seat.
Finding other funding sources and eliminating the need for a toll is a top priority for Kious, who says residents looking to cross the river in the northern part of the county will be unfairly burdened. Though a new bridge is necessary to alleviate traffic congestion, he said, he thinks the user fee is a "skewed" financing method.
"I'm concerned that after we get a toll ... we'll never see the end of it," Kious said. With some construction costs coming in lower than expected, he believes it's possible to find alternate ways to pay off the debt.
Patrician, whose parents' house backs up to the parkway, said he doesn't believe there's been enough communication with nearby residents, who have expressed concerns over pollution and noise. If elected, he said, he intends to hold project leaders accountable and ensure the 5.6-mile corridor is "done right."
Though he'd rather not see a toll, Patrician said he thinks it's inevitable. However, he wants to make sure it ends once it's no longer needed. "In terms of where I can put my resources, it would be in absolutely trying to figure out a sunset (clause) for the toll," he said.
Jacobsen has been against Longmeadow from the start, she said, and the proposed 95-cent toll only strengthens her opposition. Though not directly in her district, the bridge would affect residents throughout northern Kane County -- many of whom didn't want the project to succeed, she said. About 70 percent of Dundee Township voters rejected the plan in a 2016 advisory referendum question.
"Their wishes, their wants were totally ignored," Jacobsen said. "I feel like we're always getting hosed, and everybody's in our pocket."
Adding a toll could ensure the cost burden is spread among all users, including those who live nearby in McHenry County, Surges said. But if crossing the bridge costs nearly $2 round trip, he questioned whether local residents will find alternate routes -- and if that could make a difference in how long it'll take to pay off the debt.
Realizing the project is unique to the county, Surges said board members have an obligation to watch traffic and financial projections and adjust as needed.
"We need to keep an eye on the money," he said. "We don't want this to be a big boulder that falls on our shoulder."