Rakow Road Widening Ground Breaking

It snowed the day the ground breaking was first scheduled for the widening of Rakow Road.  (And, it’s pronounced with a long “a,” not a short one, as McHenry County Recorder of Deeds Phyllis Walters, widow of James R. Rakow, stressed.)

Sewer pipes are line up along Rakow Road.

The road builders didn’t wait for the official ceremony.  Construction is underway.

Wednesday morning it was drizzling.

Some of those who could not squeeze into the economy-sized tent stood under umbrellas. Some of those wearing bright yellow bared their head to the elements, however.

But McHenry County officials arranged for a tent where the dignitaries could come out of the rain.

Anna May Miller introduces J.R. Rakow's widow, Phyllis Walters.

McHenry County Board Transportation Committee Chairwoman Anna May Miller was the lead-off speaker.

She made reference to plans to add a bike path, which were not included in the plans that went out for bid, before introducing Phyllis Walters.

Phyllis Walters

Walters delighted in telling stories about her husband, whom she called “J.R.”

She told how surprised and please he was then County Board Chairwoman Dianne Klemm announced the road would be named in his honor at his retirement party.

Rakow decided to retire because he thought that someone more conversant with computers should head the department.  The next day, he started to work for John Smith Engineering with the promise that he would not have to deal with computers.

Whenever Rakow and his wife drove somewhere in the county, they would take county roads.

Here's a sign Phyllis Walters wouldn't have to get a ladder to alter.

The reason?

So Rakow could see if bushes needed to be cut, signs replaced, pot holes repaired.

Walters delights in telling people who use a short “a” when they say the road’s name that the correction pronunciation is with a long “a.”

She told how she kidded her husband of getting up on a ladder some night to change the “James R.” to “Phyllis.”

“No.  That’s my road,” he would reply.

And it was “my boys” about whom he worried when it snowed.  Walters said he would have on the radio listening for problems and, sometimes, would drive to the Highway Department headquarters just in case he might be needed.

Ken Koehler

County Board Chairman Ken Koehler told those gathered that Rakow Road was one of the reasons he got involved in politics.

He couldn’t understand why four lanes were not being built from the beginning.

“Money” was the answer that his friend Mike Tryon, then a County Board member, told him.

The project started out with an estimated cost of $12-15 million.  Now it’s pegged at $26 million, Koehler said.

The Western Bypass has gone from $30 to $66 million.

A former member of the McHenry County Conservation District Board, Koehler was pleased that a bicycle overpass will be built as part of the Rakow Road improvement project.

Don Manzullo

Koehler introduced Congressman Don Manzullo, mentioning that part of the money he earmarked for the project was from the Stimulus Program.

Manzullo immediately corrected him.

“It’s not stimulus money,” he stressed.

Manzullo told of his first meeting with Rakow.

“We need roads, roads, roads,” the County Engineer told him.

“I think you need roads,” Manzullo said he replied.

“Many of the counties in our district are losing population,” the Congressman whose district stretches to the Mississippi River told the gathering.

“They would do anything to get traffic congestion.”

Speakers at the ground breaking of the widening of Rakow Road are, from left to right, Phyllis Walters, Ken Koehler, Anna May Miller and Don Manzullo.

Manzullo pointed out that having “everyone on the same page” when roads were discussed was quite helpful in his obtaining $14 million for the Western Bypass and $7 million for widening Route 47 through Huntley.

He also expressed pleasure at having figured out he could funnel Federal dollars through county government, rather than having to deal with the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Reflecting on his budget earmarks, he said people call him the “poop and pavement congressman.”

Also given credit was former County Board member Dan Shea, who served as Chairman of the Transportation Committee prior to Miller.

Dignitaries pretending to dig. From left to right are Congressman Don Manzullo, District 5 County Board member Paula Yensen, Phyllis Walters, District 1 County Board member Anna May Miller, former District 1 County Board member Dan Shea, McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler and District 2 County Board member Jim Heisler.

After the speeches, shiny shovels were handed out and a bit of gravel dumped next to the tent was lifted for pictures.

The handout for the event is below:

Click to enlarge.

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