In the 1960’s when one wanted to get from the northern termination of Randall Road at Algonquin Road, one had to go east and travel through the old section of Lake in the Hills to get to Crystal Lake.
The right-of-way that was purchased to make Randall Road a straight shot to Crystal Lake ran through vacant farmland
As County Board member John Hammerand pointed out at Tuesday morning’s Finance Committee meeting discussion on improving the current intersection of Randall and Algonquin Roads, there was no problem in the beginning.
Then, the increasing flow of north-south traffic attracted retail proposals, which, in turn, put pressure on Lake in the Hills and Algonquin Village officials to request curb cuts (that is, entrances) from their County Board members.
As Hammerand pointed out, previous County Boards did not have the foresight to require access roads running parallel to Randall Road. (To see this locally, take a ride to the Tollway through Huntley on Route 47. There are very few curb cuts south of Downtown and traffic flows well.)
Now, as Nick Provenzano pointed out “I don’t think there’s anyone who’s saying, ‘We don’t have a problem.'”
There appear to be two constituencies with conflicting interests.
There are those who just want to be able to get through the intersection as quickly as possible.
And, there are those with nearby shopping on their minds. These include the businesses who fear making their locations more inaccessible will result in lower sales.
Spearheading what is called a Continuous Flow Intersection or CFI for short is Transportation Committee Chairwoman Anna May Miller.
$4.1 million has been spent getting this far.
Miller, who favors the CFI, and Yvonne Barnes, who is opposed, both represent District 1. Both are from Cary.
The newly-configured District 1, however, contains a healthy portion of Lake in the Hills, where village officials and merchants fear loss of sales taxes if business entrances are closed with the construction of the proposed Continuance Flow Intersection.
Also on the committee are two District 2 Crystal Lakers, Donna Kurtz and Vice Chairman Jim Heisler, both of whom represent the LITH Randall Road corridor.
Kurtz opposes the proposed CFI redesign of the intersection, while Heisler supported the motion to proceed on what could turn out to be the largest public works project in county government history at $115 million. Both Kurtz and Heisler are on the ballot for re-election. There are no opponents in the primary or general election.
The $9.1 million at stake in the motion would be funneled through TranSystem Enginering and Mathewson Right of Way Company, both campaign contributors to County Board members.
$1.1 million of the total will go to public input in which alternatives can be discussed, Kurtz pointed out.
“I was astounded by that number.”
It’s 12% of the total to be spent in Phase 2.
“Perhaps the astounding [thing] is the result of your wanting to do something the public doesn’t want,” she continued. “I hate to use the word ‘propaganda,’ but…”
Then Chairwoman Mary McCann interrupted with this: “Anyone have any questions regarding the financing of the project?”
Barnes, who referenced specific contractual items, wondered, “Why is there the rush to put this through the Finance Committee before there’s an opportunity for all to hear [the proposal]?”
Miller denied there was “a rush.”
“It’s the process.”
At this point Muller said her intent was never to have a Committee of the Whole discussion, an idea put forward by both Barnes and later Kurtz. Miller said she had invited everyone to the presentation at the Transportation Committee, which she chairs.
“What matters to other people is they wanted time to digest what’s being presented,” Barnes replied.
Concerning the $1.1 million in Phase 2 for communication, Hammerand said, “We spent the million [in Phase 1] educating them. It troubles me that we’re going to spend another million.”
“We all know that the same people are concerned,” Barnes added, “that the decision has already been made because of the ‘preferred alternative’ [that is, the Continuous Flow Intersection in the Phase 1 report].
“I think it would be great comfort to them that other alternatives will be considered and that won’t cost a million dollars to [convey].”
“Typically when we get to Phase 2 we know the plans,” McDOT Engineer Jeff Young pointed out.
Well into the discussion Miller announced that she had taken a privately-financed poll of people in (at least) Crystal Lake, Lake in the Hills and Algonquin.
Among the questions was one asking if people thought it took too long to drive through the intersection.
90.7% said, “Yes,” while 9.3% replied in the negative.
A second question asked whether people shopped elsewhere or took different routes to avoid the intersection.
72.5% replied in the affirmative, while 27,5% said, “No.”
Miller said she had shared the results with McDOT, including precinct results and demographics.
She refused, however, to share them with McHenry County Blog, saying it was her poll and she paid for it.
Backed up by the survey results, she said, “I can’t comfortably see this project stop at this point.”
Responding to intense criticism from Kurtz that Phase 2 of the project should not continue until design was complete, Miller noted that the proposal was different from other Phase 2’s in that it proposed to continued gauging public opinion in her committee’s “hybrid Phase 2.”
“Are you willing to invest out into the future?
“Do we see value with moving ahead on this project.?”
Provenzano pointed out that the CFI “has the best chance of getting significant Federal funding.”
“Why wouldn’t we want to take the CFI off the table?” Kurtz asked.
“The reason is a very well-founded fear that numerous access points are going to be cut off,” she continued, pointing out how such decisions would negatively impact the Randall Road business environment.
“If the CFI is going to hurt a business permanently, we’ve got a problem.
“If Costco says, ‘In the long run we’re not going to be there, [we’ve got a problem].’
“I think $1.1 million for outreach is an absurd amount. You don’t spend 12% on outreach,” Kurtz said.
She emphasized that the effort “doesn’t have a project…I think you have to have a design in place. Otherwise what are you planning?”
Mike Skala pointed out that in Phase 1, there is a plan.
“It’s a CFI.”
“The County said a CFI made most sense,” Provenzano said. “I’m not certain we don’t have enough votes to move the CFI.” (Earlier, he said he wasn’t a supporter of the CFI.)
“Why have more dialogue,” asked Kurtz, “when you’re not listening to what the local officials are saying?”
Barnes added, “Spending another million dollars to change their minds probably won’t change their minds.”
Provenzano noted that if Randall Road doesn’t work as an entrance to McHenry County that Route 47 might.
A motion to recommend the Phase 2 plan to the County Board passed 4-3.
Voting in favor:
- Jim Heisler
- Mary McCann
- Nick Provenzano
- Mike Skala
- John Hammerand
- Donna Kurtz
- Yvonne Barnes