Apparently stimulated by my little article on the pothole on the McDonald’s side of Randall Road near the traffic light in Algonquin, bond analyst Steve Willson has written about how a road approval or disapproval should be determined.
Since this is a vibrant issue in the District 1 County Board race, I thought I would share it more broadly:
How to Figure Out Whether a Road Improvement Makes Sense
For every public policy decision at the local level, there is a logical method for determining the best procedure.
All elected officials, whether County Board members, municipal council members or Township Road Commissioners, should follow a logical and TRANSPARENT procedure for justifying both need and expense.
For roads, the procedure is as follows:
(1) Determine the road’s capacity.
(2) Determine the utilization on an hourly basis to determine how often and how heavily traffic exceeds capacity.
(3) If it exceeds capacity, determine the cost to relieve congestion.
(4) Compare the cost to what other municipalities pay for road construction (usually measured by lane-mile).
(5) Divide the annual cost (amortized construction plus maintenance) by the number of BENEFITED users (i.e., only those during rush hours).
(6) Proceed ONLY if the cost per lane-mile is reasonable and ONLY if the cost to benefited motorists is reasonable.
None of this has been presented to the public or even the County Board to justify expanding Randall Road.
When I examined the statistics myself, I found the following:
(1) Traffic on the stretch of road under consideration has not increased in ten years. This is not surprising given that population has decreased.
(2) The justification for this project is 3% increase in population forever, which is clearly ridiculous.
(3) The road appears to be mildly congested at rush hour, and any improvement would be a matter of a couple of minutes for each rush hour commuter.
(4) The cost — which is a constantly moving target — was a multiple of what other Illinois governments pay.
(5) The average cost per benefited commuter was several times what users pay on the Illinois toll way.
Each time County Board members ask questions about such projects, they are told the project has already been approved because it was part of some giant wish list passed years ago.
Then the rest of their questions are ignored.
It’s time for the County Board to demand answers about ALL of the County’s road projects, not just to act like sheep and pass gold-plated, unnecessary projects without getting answers to basic questions.