Highways Follow Suburban Sprawl UIC Report on Tollway Finds New Roads Don't Drive Growth

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Byline: Laura Janota Daily Herald Staff Writer

Study indicates affluence is behind growth

Suburban affluence and lifestyle - not the building of highways - leads to suburban sprawl, a new study says.

But critics of the study commissioned by the Illinois Toll Highway Authority say its real purpose is to pave the way for an extension of Route 53 north into Lake County.

"This study is being used as a sort of alibi for the tollway," said Mike Truppa, a spokesman for the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago.

The group estimates a Route 53 extension into Lake County would draw 60,000 new residents.

A study released Monday by the University of Illinois at Chicago challenges the notion that highways cause suburban sprawl.

The 18-month study done for the Illinois Toll Highway Authority by UIC's Urban Transportation Center ties the region's outward growth to affluence and lifestyle rather than highway construction.

The study found decentralization to be a worldwide phenomenon at work most in areas where income levels allow movement.

Much of the region's suburban growth took root before major expressway links were completed around 1960, the study shows.

What's more, decentralization may be beneficial because unrestricted, outward development keeps prices affordable for home buyers, the researchers concluded.

The $133,000 study commissioned by the tollway authority flies in the face of myriad other recent land-use reports that have pronounced the region's land consumption out of control and in need of solutions.

The findings could come in handy in the weeks and months to come, however, as tollway authorities make their case for Route 53 extensions north into Lake County and south through Will County.

"This study is being used as a sort of alibi for the tollway," said Mike Truppa, a spokesman for the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago.

The group estimates a Route 53 extension into Lake County would draw 60,000 new residents. Such growth is controversial in Lake County, where many want to preserve the county's rural character.

"Clearly the toll authority is trying to rescue the Route 53 projects from bad public sentiment," Truppa said. …