Ridgefield Businessman Takes on McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler over Proposed Metra Station

I’ve posted about the proposed Ridgefield Metra station before in

Alexander Lumber’s Move to Ridgefield, Proposed Metra Station Implications


Musings on the Proposed Ridgefield Metra Station

I noticed an ad in the Northwest Herald on Tuesday. It appeared to be about 60% of page 5A, the front section.

Ridgefield businessman Craig Steagall has begun a campaign to stop the proposed building of a Metra station on Country Club Road in unincorporated Ridgefield. He admits he has a competing site on the Route 14 (other) side of the tracks (which he circles in yellow on the area map he publishes). He contends that it would be a more appropriate location.

Then I found Steagall’s web site devoted entirely to this public issue:

The top of his front page, next to the photo I’ve enlarged above (all images can be further enlarged by clicking on them), has this text:

“This image shows two sites Metra evaluated for its third train station in Crystal Lake. The blue line indicates the railroad tracks. As you can see, the yellow circle routes traffic through existing, high volume arteries like Route 14 and Ridgefield Road.

“The red site forces traffic onto streets such as Country Club Road, Hillside, and Oak Street. Traffic coming from Route 14 will be routed through downtown Ridgefield, requiring road easements, turn lanes, and most likely the bulldozing of property.”

Next, the web site lays out background information:


“Metra has considered as many as 3 different Crystal Lake properties for a third commuter rail station. Property owned by McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler is the apparent choice of Metra. This property is adjacent to 84 Lumber Company. The City of Crystal Lake appears to be working in cooperation with Metra and Ken Koehler, with the intention of annexing the property.

“I was engaged in negotiations with Metra as the owner of one of the three potential Metra sites. I operate a business off of Ridgefield Road, one that sends out 10 to 12 semis a day and 15 to 20 semis inbound per day. A company policy has been in effect since my operation moved to Ridgefield in 1994 that NO company trucks are to use Country Club Road, Hillside or Oak Street. Those roads are not intended, nor were they built for, truck traffic.

“One might conclude that this ad is sour grapes, however, it is much more. Country Club Road is an ill-suited location for a Metra station. This newspaper communication aims to focus attention on the matter, and below I highlight issues that I believe reflect a pattern of questionable activities.”

Below, Steagall shows the routes to what he calls “Ken Koehler’s property?”:

He asks if the intersection, with the distance between the buildings in Ridgefield being only 65.5 feet, is safe for commuter traffic. He compares the road to Alden Road, on which the county wants thirty foot easements.

He provides an enlarged photo of Downtown Ridgefield with distances marked off:

Next come questions for Metra:

“Questions for Metra:

“Orest Chryniwsky, Senior Real Estate and Development Specialist at Metra, when you asked me the question

‘do you have a way of handling Ken Koehler?’

What exactly did you mean? Please explain why a potential seller of land would need a way to handle Ken Koehler. Does Metra have any agenda other than doing the proper due diligence in selecting the best location for the third Crystal Lake rail station? Is Metra receiving pressure from any other source?”

He asks a series of questions, which I have separated for easier reading:

  • “Why is Metra pursuing a Crystal Lake water shed study on the proposed Metra sight? 84 Lumber was built and developed without a watershed study.
  • “Metra has an obligation to the communities that they serve to put Metra in the best location to service the population. Did the dangerous location get trumped by the County Board Chairman’s desire to sell his property?
  • “Metra, who has performed your traffic studies? The same firm that did 84 Lumber? “Did the traffic study highlight the DANGER to the intersection of Ridgefield Road and Country Club? You can’t turn a semi onto either of the roads without using the entire oncoming traffic lane. A semi cannot turn onto Country Club Road off Ridgefield Road if the train crossing gates come down.
  • “Hasn’t the County had enough tragedy at poorly designed rail crossings?”

I presume he is referring to the Fox River Grove school bus-train crash in the last question.

Below is the following traffic study proposal:

“I propose AT MY EXPENSE an independent traffic consultant and a live re-enactment of three semis at the intersection of Country Club Road and Ridgefield Road. Let’s invite the Crystal Lake City Council and McHenry County Board to this live demonstration and see if they agree that this is DANGEROUS. We might be able to get the National Transportation Safety Board to attend. Metra, will you honor the boundary agreement with the city of Crystal Lake? Apparently the property for 84 Lumber was bought / sold without even a courtesy advisement to the City of Crystal Lake. Do you want any public input? Why not let the public voice their opinions?”

The web site has questions for Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley, too:

Questions for Mayor Shepley:

“Mayor-have you ever ridden your bike down Oak, to Hillside to Country Club- in route to a fine day of peddling in the countryside? With easement expansion, will there be room for a bike path? So much for the McHenry County Scenic Drive sign program.”

There are also questions aimed at Country Club Road and Bull Valley residents (again separated them to make them easier to read):

Questions for Country Club Road Residents / Bull Valley Residents / Ridgefield Road Merchants

  • “Do you like 84 Lumber?
  • “Were you surprised by its development?
  • “How excited will you be when Metra adds trains and traffic 24/7?
  • “Ridgefield Merchants are you ready for new roads in downtown Ridgefield?
  • “If the roads are going to be safe for the METRA TRAFFIC (drive down Pingree to see your future), then might the downtown cease to exist?
  • “Is Metra widening the rail crossing to accommodate turn lanes? You can’t widen between the few buildings that exist in downtown Ridgefield without bulldozing first.”

Steagall’s web site moves on to questions for Hillside Drive, Oak Street, Covered Bridge Trails and Manor Hills residents:

“Questions for Hillside/Oak Street-Covered Bridge-Manor Hills:

“Oak Street and Hillside will become major arteries for traffic traveling to the new Metra Station. Is this the future you want for your road? The County believes they need to widen Alden Road an extra 30 feet on each side. Doesn’t Hillside and Oak Street handle more traffic now than Alden Road? Do you want your future to be a major artery to a train station? Drive down Pingree Road to see what your future is.”

Finally, there are questions for Ken Koehler:

Questions for Ken Koehler:

“84 Lumber was under contract on Ridgefield Road for 6 plus months with Craig Steagall and another partner. I asked Ed Dvorak to set up a meeting with you in your capacity as a County Board member, to learn what could be done to deal with the onerous requirements the county was making for Ridgefield Road. Within weeks 84 Lumber was under contract with you for your nearby property? How did that happen, Ken, without even a telephone call? Did the Director of Economic Development really just call 84 out of the blue saying she knew of a great property for a lumberyard?”

At the bottom of his message, Steagall has ten photographs of the Ridgefield area with statements and questions superimposed. Click to enlarge the images and you can read the text.

Want to comment on Steagall’s web site? He already has some here. Four of them–Nancy Jung, Jeremy Mahnke, John Shulfer and Patrick Kulisek–even seem to be real names.

Here’s the email address: metraquestions@gmail.com


Ridgefield Businessman Takes on McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler over Proposed Metra Station — 1 Comment

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