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.)
The road builders didn’t wait for the official ceremony. Construction is underway.
Wednesday morning it was drizzling.
But McHenry County officials arranged for a tent where the dignitaries could come out of the rain.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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: