A Chicago Suburb Seeks to Disown its Roads, Will Others Follow?

Facing a shortfall of more than $1 million to maintain its roads, the Chicago suburb of Long Grove is looking to privatize nearly half of them by asking residents to pick up the tab. Residents are unhappy about the plan, but see few alternatives.
January 14, 2014, 1pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Richie Diesterheft

"Facing an annual funding gap of more than $1 million, Long Grove trustees have twice in recent months affirmed a plan that could privatize nearly half of the village's public roads — transferring the cost of upkeep and plowing to the residents in the process," reports Duaa Eldeib.

How did the affluent community get itself into this problem in the first place? A lack of property taxes, building permit revenues that were decimated by the recession, and "29 miles of public roads for a relatively small population of about 8,000," are seen as the primary contributing factors.

"Experts in public planning and municipal finance agree that Long Grove has hit upon an unusual potential solution to a commonplace problem," adds Eldeib. "They say other communities also struggling to make ends meet could follow suit as aging roads deteriorate and revenue streams dry up. Yet such plans could eat away at the public's trust in local leadership even as they mitigate public deficits, warned Joseph Schwieterman, a DePaul University transportation professor."

"It's going to create resentment that city hall has broken its contract to fix the roads, and that could lead to turmoil that tears at the social capital of a community," he said.

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Published on Monday, January 13, 2014 in Chicago Tribune
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