McHenry County Board Chairman Joe Gottemoller asked a Randall Road question of the four men who want to sit in the seat vacated by Ken Koehler.
Besides putting in two left turn lanes on all four corners of the intersection of Algonquin and Randall Roads, the County Board is planning to widen the road from four to six lanes from Crystal Lake to points south of Algonquin Road.
That article prompted bond analyst and Lakewood resident Steve Willson to pen the following comment concerning the need for cost-benefit analysis in governmental decision-making:
For every public policy decision, there is an objective method of determining the proper course of action.
It is the job of the staff to explain the objective method to the elected officials and to provide all the relevant evidence.
If the staff instead is an advocate for more projects and does NOT explain the proper method for making an objective decision and does NOT provide the objective evidence, then the staff is part of the problem.
It is the job of the elected officials to be a check on the bureaucracy, to be the taxpayers’ watchdog.
Any candidate who simply accepts staff advice at face value is doing the exact opposite of their job and should not be appointed.
Any candidate who says a project is “needed” without considering the cost fails in his or her duty to the citizens.
In the case of a major road project, the objective method is similar to that used for toll roads.
First, determine on ah hourly basis the extent to which traffic exceeds the capacity of the road.
The Highway Capacity Manual, published by the Transportation Research Board, provides objective formulae for such a determination.
The staff should have provided this formula and should have provided hourly numbers to plug into such formulae.
Next, compare the cost versus the benefit.
The full annual cost of the improvement should be calculated by amortizing the construction cost over the life of the project and adding the increase in the annual maintenance cost.
This annual cost should be divided by the number of BENEFITTED trips annually.
I stress the word “BENEFITTED”.
The cost should NOT be divided by the total number of trips because cars that do NOT use this intersection during rush hours DERIVE ZERO BENEFIT from the change. (I refuse to use the word “improvement” because it is probably not accurate.)
This cost can be translated into an hourly cost per driver and also compared with the average Illinois toll.
My initial estimates are that the benefitted drivers would save at most a minute or two per day at a cost comes of well over $45 per hour and several times the cost of the typical Illinois toll road.
If my figures are born out, then the project is not justified.
Finally, board members should ask staff for information on how much such projects cost elsewhere in Illinois and in other states and explain in detail why the cost in McHenry County is a multiple of what nearby states pay for such projects, states that have the same winter conditions as Illinois.