Today the McHenry County Board approved Phase II of the probably the biggest capital improvement project in McHenry County history.
The vote was 15-7, with Michele Aavang, Yvonne Barnes, Diane Evertsen, John Hammerand, Donna Kurtz, Ersel Schuster and Michael Walkup voting in the negative. (Sue Draffkorn, Jim Heisler and Sandy Salgado were absent.)
Phase I cost over $4 million and Phase II weighs in at $9.1 million toward a road improvement that some estimate will total $119 million.
The project will expand Randall Road from four to six lanes–a non-controversial proposal–plus revamp the intersection at Algonquin Road.
The Phase I preference for a Continuous Flow Intersection or CFI was the bone of contention during an extended morning debate.
The alternative discussed was a more traditional two left-lane configuration.
There was general agreement that the corner is a failure.
Current travel time from Crystal Lake’s Ackmann Road to County Line Road is 28.9 minutes, according to McHenry County Transportation Department data quoted by Donna Kurtz.
Widening the road and putting in two left-turn lanes would cut travel time by eleven minutes.
The CFI would cut time by 9.3 minutes.
So, the difference, as Kurtz pointed out, it less than two minutes.
The difference in cost is about $1.3 million, with the CFI costing about $12 million and the two left-turn lanes coming in at $10.7 million.
Kurtz contended the $12 million estimate did not include acquiring the Phillips gas station and the Bank of America building. All of both parcels would not have to be taken for the left turn-lane alternative, Nick Chirikos said. He estimated those acquisitions would cost an additional $2 million.
Kurtz added that the lack of inclusion of the cost of the two properties kept the intersection comparison from being “apples to apples.”
Also up engendering debate as the Phase II expenditure authorization of $1.1 million for what John Hammerand called “public relations.” (There was another $1 million in Phase I.)
Supporters of the spending called it “community outreach.”
Land acquisition funding of $5 million was included in the proposal, which will require acquisition of about 100 properties. Additional money would be appropriated later.
Diane Evertsen was interested in the change of traffic pattern resulting from opening Longmeadow Parkway just over the Kane County line.
“How can you assume it won’t take any traffic off Algonquin Road?” she asked. [That, of course, was the goal in proposing the new crossing of the Fox River south of Algonquin Road.]
Evertsen also wondered if the County would have to return any money to the Federal Highway Administration if the CFI were not constructed.
“Between $1 and $3 million” was the answer.
“Everybody agrees on expanding from four to six lanes,” Mike Walkup pointed out, wondering if it could not be possible to split that widening from the intersection question.
“The directions that was given was to move forward on the CFI,” County Engineer Joe Korpalski replied.
Walkup also wanted to know if Federal funding would be endangered by municipal (Lake in the Hills) opposition to the project.
The County Engineer allowed that there was a “lot of competition for a very limited pool of dollars.”
Questions were asked about the seemingly over optimistic population projections, which were required to be used, but which will be revised in October by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP).
Walkup also wondered why none of the existing CFI’s examined already had “intensive commercial development.”
Algonquin Village President John Schmitt spoke in favor of the resolution during the public comment period.
He revealed that the village’s annual citizen survey showed 82% believed regional transportation in and around Algonquin was miserable. Only that taxes were too high received a higher response.
His talking to businessmen led him to the conclusion that Randall Road has to be improved or “ten years down the rod, they’re out of here.”
There was irony that I’m not sure many in the room picked up when Schmitt talked about being “the proverbial newbie. I stood up here and said, ‘Don’t build it.'”
The difference between “newbie” Schmitt’s fight against the Haegers Bend bridge (which would have run very near his home at the time) and the Continuous Flow Intersection was that Schmitt’s side won and it appears unlikely that its opponents, led by Lake in the Hills, will succeed in stopping the project its village fathers and mothers oppose.
“The engineers are not like us. They’re not working on re-election.
“The project you [are considering] is actually going to solve a problem.”
Referring to the prospective Federal funds to pay for most of the CFI’s construction, Schimtt pointed out, “Without money you don’t get it built. To do a project like this we need Federal and state money.
“The elephant in the room is the CFI.
“Lake in the Hills hates it.
“Algonquin hated it in the beginning.
“We sat down and started to work it out…solutions you have never seen.
“We’ve been able to to work through these solutions.”
Schmitt pointed out that the owners of the Jewel and Caputo’s are “not ecstatic. They’re going to lose some curb cuts.”
Urging a favorable vote, the Algonquin Village President suggested, “We can solve the problems or we can just say, ‘No.’
“Please allow the process to continue.
“We need Randall Road to continue to function.”
In counterpoint, Lake in the Hills Village Trustee Robert Huckins told of his village’s consistent opposition to the CFI. He criticized to “overstated population projections.”
Huckins read a letter from new Village Trustee Paul Mulcahy.
“…the creation of a CFI at this intersection is not warranted based on the excessive cost of design and construction and the negative economic ipact it will create.”
Pointing to the money for purchase and demolition of the Phillips 66 gas station and the Bank of America building, which “are only necessary if the CFI is built,” he complains about “the assumption that the CFI design has already been selected.”
He argued there was no need to commit to “all $9,000,000 in consultant fees at one meeting.”
“Once the design is approved, then the County will have adequate information to determine whether or not SB Friedman needs to be retained to perform an Economic Development Analysis of CFI intersections across the United States…”
Lake in the Hills Village Trustee Steve Harlfinger was next to the podium.
“The contract scares me because it basically reads CFI,” he said.
“When the Randall Road [advisory committee] met, they never gave…the nod to a CFI.”
He said that this was “not only Lake in the Hills stomping its feet.
“Ten of the 14 elected officials have concerns-reservations about a CFI.
“Ask me outside and I’ll tell you what I really feel.”
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