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Kane Board mulls options for Longmeadow bridge financing

GENEVA – Kane County officials have renewed discussions on how to finance a $117 million project to ease congestion on bridges in northern Kane and southern McHenry counties.

The proposal to build the bridge and an additional five miles of roadway from Route 62 to Huntley Road in the Algonquin, Carpentersville and Lake in the Hills area has been in the works for about two decades.

To move the project forward, Kane County transportation planners have sought to establish the bridge as toll crossing, charging users $1 to $1.50.

County officials said they believe the project could be financed through such tolls, as well as federal and state transportation funds.

However, Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen has expressed doubts over the county's ability to finance the project as it is currently proposed.

The project has earned official endorsements from the village boards of 10 northern Kane County villages, and has been designated as one of Kane County's top transportation priorities.

To address financial concerns, the County Board reviewed several options for financing the project, including issuing bonds, or even engaging in a public-private partnership to construct and maintain the bridge.

Kane County Board member Drew Frasz, chairman of the county board's Transportation Committee, said tolls remain key to the success of the project, noting that taxpayers in the southern portions of the county should not be made to foot the bill for a bridge that would benefit many residents of McHenry County.

Frasz said he, for instance, could support a proposal under which the county would redirect a certain portion of road impact fees that would otherwise be spent in the county's north end to a reserve fund that would give the county enough money to fund the project, even if tolls far short of estimates.

"It's a matter of having a little more skin in the game," Frasz said.

A county feasibility study has estimated that as many as 10,000 to 12,000 cars could travel the bridge per day.

Carl Schoedel, director of the Kane County Division of Transportation, said "if all goes smoothly" work could begin in 2015 or 2016. But he said "the biggest issue" affecting that schedule is the need for a funding decision from the County Board.

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