More Thoughts on Ridgefield Metra Station

The following are some observations on the traffic problems brought up by Metra’s proposal to purchase 17.3 acres on Country Club Road in Ridgefield for a new stop.

As a long-time resident of Crystal Lake, I am very familiar with the streets and intersections in question.

When I visit McHenry County College, I take Ridgefield Road to Tartan Drive, and have had many occasions to drive on Country Club and Hillside Roads.

It certainly would be nice to have a Metra station in Ridgefield.

There are a lot of people living between easy access to the downtown stations in Crystal Lake and Woodstock, and, with some paved walkways and ingenuity, students from the towns along the rail line could commute to MCC. It would be a good, green complement to the bicycle path from Oak Street to the College, currently under construction.

However, I am in complete agreement with Craig Steagall that locating the station on the north side of the tracks behind the 84/Alexander property would lead to a traffic fiasco.

The problem is that none of the roads in question, with the possible exception of Ridgefield Road, is the kind of artery that can handle the bursts of traffic following the arrival of a commuter train.

In recent years, I have observed a considerable increase in traffic, presumably to and from Bull Valley and the northeast part of Woodstock, taking Ridgefield Road to the rail crossing, then continuing on Country Club.

It appears that it can be a challenge even to make a right turn, toward Crystal Lake, out of Tartan Drive, let alone a left.

Because of the traffic coming from Woodstock headed for the Ridgefield rail crossing, I also have found it difficult to make a left turn off westbound Hillside onto Country Club.

In my opinion, the installation of a traffic light at the southern intersection of Rt. 14 and Ridgefield Rd. has facilitated this pattern. This would be especially true of southbound traffic, because before the light, it was risking one’s life to turn left from Ridgefield to 14.

I can’t imagine these already-overtaxed roads being able to handle the additional load of a Metra station.

I’m not even sure that siting the station in the “yellow circle” in Mr. Steagall’s diagram or elsewhere on the south side of the tracks would work.

In that case, yes, people could use both legs of Ridgefield Rd. to get to the station.

I presume there would be a traffic light at the northern junction of 14 and Ridgefield, by the Lutheran church. This would work fine for people coming from the southeast and west.

The problem of eastern access would remain, however.

There are a lot of people from Bull Valley and McHenry who would have to take the old, skinny Bull Valley roads and cross at the awkward Ridgefield crossing. Unless there is to be a terrific amount of restructuring of the eastern Ridgefield intersections (which, as Mr. Steagall has pointed out, would require tearing buildings down), I don’t see that problem going away.

But the south-side location would be better than the north-side one.

There’s a more fundamental issue here, though.

There is no way to get directly from northwest Crystal Lake to McHenry, as I have learned over many years. One can be excused for thinking its affluent residents want it to be hard to get through Bull Valley.

You can either go all the way over to Walkup or wind your way along roads like Cherry Valley and Bull Valley Roads, all posted with whimsically varying speed limits designed to generate speeding tickets. (They haven’t nailed me yet.)

The residents are inconvenienced too, of course, but so are the many people who might like to be able to drive to and from, say, MCC, to McHenry.

So it’s more than just a problem of the Metra station. To be sure, the station would make this a lot worse.

One last point:

A couple of years ago, I watched the sad unraveling of MCC’s Health, Wellness, Athletic Complex project, the one that was supposed to be financed through a minor league baseball team.

Putting aside the merits and demerits of that project for now, I find it curious that the two issues that killed it

  • traffic and
  • the Crystal Lake watershed

do not seem to have entered into this current discussion in any significant way.

Did those involved learn nothing from the attempt by the College to sneak something through without real planning and public scrutiny?

With the MCC experience in mind, I would be astounded if Crystal Lake cooperates with the north-of-the-tracks Metra station, unless the fix truly is in.

I hope that this issue stirs up some public concern.

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Anyone else have thoughts they would like to share? My email is way down to the right on this page.

Other articles that might be of interest (listed in reverse order of publication):

Saturday, 8-15-9 The Ridgefield Metra Deal

Friday, 8-14-9 Metra Votes to Purchase Ridgefield Station Site

Friday, 8-14-9 Craig Steagall Unleashes Broadside Against McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler over Metra State Land Purchase

Friday, 8-14-9 Metra Scheduled to Approve Former Flowerwood Land for Station in Ridgefield This Morning

Thursday, 8-13-9 $1.5 Million Being Paid for Ridgefield Metra Site Half-Owned by McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler

Thursday, 8-13-9 Metra Transparency Worse than McHenry County College’s

Wednesday, 8-12-9 Ridgefield Businessman Takes on McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler over Proposed Metra Station

Friday, 8-7-9 Musings on the Proposed Ridgefield Metra Station

Wednesday, 8-5-9 Alexander Lumber’s Move to Ridgefield, Proposed Metra Station Implications

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