McHenry County Defends Randall Road Project

McHenry County’s Transportation Department replied to the ALAW-related Citizen Advocates for Public Accountability critique of the county’s plan to expand Randall Road.

Below is McHenry County’s reply:

McHenry County has reviewed the May 12, 2014 CAPA position paper on the Randall Road Phase II

Engineering Project and offer the following thoughts and clarifications:

Faulty Population Projections

The Randall Road Phase I Study utilized the most current population estimates and growth projections available at that time. Since then, the County has recognized that both the current population and growth projections are likely less than originally thought during the Phase I Study.

Therefore, one of the initial tasks of the Phase II Design Team (Design Team) is to re-evaluate the population and growth projections.

Currently, the Design Team has been coordinating with CMAP to obtain these updated population projections. CMAP is in the process of updating their population forecasts. This update utilizes actual 2010 census data, whereas this data was not available during the Phase I process.

Additionally, CMAP has reviewed and updated their socioeconomic data which serves as a basis for the future projection growths. The Design Team is reviewing this data provided by CMAP and will be using it to determine future traffic projections.

Lack of Objective Traffic Evidence

The traffic information, consisting of the collection of data and the analysis of said data, has been and is currently being based upon industry accepted engineering and modeling practice.

The Phase I analysis of the Randall at Algonquin intersection indicates that the intersection is already at flailing levels of service (as measured by the length of delay) in the afternoon weekly rush hours and on Saturdays during peak shopping hours. While the current traffic and amount of future growth has been debated, there will likely be some increase in population and traffic. Therefore, any additional growth will lead to the intersection continuing to fail, which will continue to negatively impact the intersection and surrounding businesses.

To date, the Design Team has approached over 300 businesses along the corridor and participated in over 15 individual meetings will Algonquin, Lake in the Hills, property owners, and business.

Randall Road heading toward Crystal Lake through Lake in the Hills.

Randall Road heading toward Crystal Lake through Lake in the Hills.

There have been two consistent messages received at these meetings:

  1. congestion is a problem; and,
  2. more traffic (i.e. potential customers) could be a good thing, provided reasonable access is maintained.

The Design Team has been working very closely with the stakeholders to understand their needs so that we can provide the best improvement for motorist and businesses.

The Design Team will use the updated CMAP data mentioned previously to determine revised traffic (both existing and projected) and re-evaluate the Randall at Algonquin intersection.

Note that it is anticipated that the revised traffic numbers will be less than were originally thought during the Phase I Study.

The objective is to determine a final design that will strive to strike a balance between the needs of the motoring public (i.e. safe and efficient movement of traffic) with access to businesses along the corridor. It should be noted that a final intersection type has not been decided and it is expected to have a decision later this year based upon these revised traffic numbers.

Project Cost Relative to Population and Project Scope

The Phase I Study identified approximately 8.5 miles of roadway improvements. Randall Road accounted for 3.5 miles, Algonquin Road 1 miie and the side roads/internal roadways 5 miles.

Concept estimates $90M for construction and other costs associated with utility relocations and land acquisition. At this time a detailed cost estimate has not been prepared, as the type of improvement has not been determined.

Also, in order to be eligible for federal funding, the traffic projections used in determining the final intersection design must follow the process described previously. It is anticipated that much of the project would utilize federal funding, therefore leaving much less of a County share as implied in CAPA’s position paper.

As stated, before moving into any detailed design, we want to ensure that the Randall Road at Algonquin Road intersection is not over designed nor under designed.

Going west on Algonquin Road toward Randall Road.

Going west on Algonquin Road toward Randall Road.

While there are additional costs associated with providing too much of an Improvement, having to build the intersection twice is even more costly.

Once the intersection is reconstructed, we do not want to revisit it again for another twenty to thirty years.

With respect to how the project will be funded, nearly all funding for roadway projects comes in the form of user fees such as sales tax and the taxes on Motor Fuel taxes. At this time, the County is proposing to utilize these existing funding streams to fund the desired improvements to the Randall Road corridor.

No Evaluation by County of Economic impact

While moving traffic is important to the County, maintaining access for the adjacent businesses is also very important. One goal of the ultimate design, is to provide an improvement that enables and encourages additional retail opportunities along this vital gateway into McHenry County.

The Design Team is performing an economic development analysis to potentially identify these opportunities. As we move from preliminary concepts into final design, we will incorporate the input received from community leaders and business interests alike to realize this mutually beneficial vision.

Federal studies have shown that access management can have a positive impact on adjacent property values by reducing congestion, improving safety and increasing traffic flow on the arterial roadways like Randall Road. This is supported by stakeholder input received during and after the preliminary study indicating that many drivers currently avoid the intersection and corridor for these reasons. We are hopeful that by making Randall Road more inviting and easier to travel, it will bring additional retail exposure and new opportunities.

There were four questions at the end of the article. The following are our comments to those questions:

Question 1: Does the evidence support spending $135 million to change Randall Road?

As stated earlier, before moving into any detailed design, we want to ensure that the Randall Road at Algonquin Road intersection is not over designed nor under designed.

While there are additional costs associated with providing too much of an improvement, having to build the intersection twice is even more costly.

Looking north on Randall with a Continuous Flow Intersection.

Looking north on Randall with a Continuous Flow Intersection.

Once the intersection is reconstructed, we do not want to revisit it again for another twenty to thirty years.

At this time a detailed cost estimate has not been prepared, as the type of improvement has not been determined.

Question 2: Is there a downside to waiting?

One role of the County is to take a proactive approach in order to strive to identify and solve potential problems before they manifest themselves into larger problems.

At the Randall at Algonquin intersection, many stakeholders already believe there is a problem and waiting will only magnify the problem. It can be debated how much growth will actually happen, however most would agree that some growth will happen, which will result in the continued failure of the intersection, which will impact the motoring public and businesses alike. Waiting may also risk potential funding available for the project.

Question 3: Is there a downside to starting the project now?

The County believes the sooner a solution is put in place, the sooner the motoring public andbusinesses will realize the benefits of the improvements. Additionally, roadway projects typically are more expensive as project costs increase each year. Therefore, there is a benefit to the  overall project cost by constructing it sooner rather than later.

Question 4: If there is a problem, is the proposed solution the right solution?

The County believes that with the aforementioned re-evaluation of the traffic and population projections, the proposed solution will be the right solution. The County continues to stress that the intersection type has not been determined until the Design Team has had a chance to re-evaluate the traffic, access and geometrics.

= = = = =
How anyone can call the RTA sales tax a “user fee”for road building is beyond my comprehension.

Note that the paper says another source will be “taxes on Motor Fuel taxes.”

Illinois and local government levies sales taxes on gas taxes.  (Believe it or not, that’s the case.) Whether McHenry County means that those sales taxes will be used to help finance the Randall Road project or whether MFT will be utilized in conjunction with the RTA and county sales taxes is unclear.


Comments

McHenry County Defends Randall Road Project — 9 Comments

  1. It should not matter what the engineers think, the vast majority of the taxpayers are greatly opposed.

  2. Bearing in mind the wisdom of that great 20th Century American philosopher, Casey Stengel, who said: “Predictions are hard, especially about the future”, I would offer the following.

    There has been talk in planning circles and a bit outside of those circles of late that an emerging demographic trend that is not being recognized could result in no growth or actual population decline in exurban areas such as McHenry County.

    This is part of the “pig in the python” phenomenon with the baby boomers.

    The explosive growth occurred when the baby boomers were raising families in the 80’s through early 2000’s.

    Now they are becoming empty nesters.

    As such they don’t care what the local school system is like and don’t want to have to keep up a large property all the while spending 2 to 3 hours per workday in commutes and not being close to amenities.

    The thinking is that these people will start to look at closer in communities or the cities themselves.

    Likewise, the children of those boomers, having been raised in the exurbs, saw first hand the price that their parents were paying in leisure time sacrifices and are opting for closer in areas so they will not be replacing the exiting boomers as fast as the latter are leaving.

    The only group that may affect exurbia in terms of more growth would be various ethnic communities.

    However, the groups that constitute those today are less likely to want to try to blend in than their mostly European predecessors and tend to stay in more tightly knit groups.

    These can affect those areas where they choose to go but there is no way to predict where that will be.

    The bottom line is that areas like McHenry County may be in for an extended period of low or no growth notwithstanding the economic ‘recovery’.

    There has actually been a slight decline in population in McHenry County since the 2010 Census.

    CMAP, however, appears to have its head in the sand on this and continues to tout the growth line, which I expect we will still see in the revised numbers.

    I say all this as a former member for 8 years of the McHenry County Planning Commission, Citizen Member of the Citizens Advisory Group to CMAP, and township planning commissioner, not to mention current County Board Member.

  3. Cost.

    “County is proposing to utilize these existing funding streams to fund the desired improvements to the Randall Road corridor.”

    Will these be new, additional taxes, or will this be use of existing revenue? Where will the money come from to replace the existing revenue stream?

    What is the economic impact of new, and/or higher taxes?

    Economic impact on county.

    Property tax is now in excess of 3% of property value for many of this county’s homeowners.

    Seneca Township District 200 property tax rate is 3.67% of home value.

    This is a shockingly higher tax rate than the national average of 1.15%.

    Higher tax burdens placed on homeowners engender significant economic impact on the whole county. How is this economic impact not a consideration in ALL Board decisions on spending?

    Impact on property values.

    The statement citing a national study that property values will improve due to construction projects on a small slice of roadway, without mentioning whether this federal study took into account that the property tax rate in the county studied was >3% of property value, is horrifying.

    What is the decision making process used by this Board?

    Property values in McHenry County have fallen sharply in recent years according to Zillow.com. The rest of the nation is enjoying a recovery in property values during the same time period.The only unique feature which might account for this is our startlingly high property tax rate relative to the rest of the nation.

    Growth.

    In order to expect growth, one must determine the break-even property tax which will need to be captured from any new household formation.

    Growth is contraindicated if there is an annual tax rate which far exceeds that of other location options for new buyers.

    Consider school costs alone:

    According to census, each household has 2.8 people, and at least 20% of population is school aged. Average cost per student annually is $10,700.

    So, if each household contains .56 students:

    $10,700 x .56= $5992 annual cost burden.

    Need.

    IDOT Projections made no mention of this project, so it has arisen as a function of the desire of the County Board.

    ‘Failing’ ‘level of service’ is defined as greater than 80 seconds at the intersection.

    No comparisons to other communities are cited, nor is the amount of cars affected stated, nor is the time period during which >80 second delay occurs quantified.

    In order to justify spending such a large amount of tax dollars, one would like to know the amount of people being purportedly affected, for how many minutes of a day they are affected, and whether there exist in any suburbs or exurbs of Illinois any comparable roadways which do not ever experience some time periods of ‘LOS failure’.

  4. The County’s “answers” to CAPA’s analysis make clear how weak the initial analysis is. Let’s examine each point and see how well the County responded.

    Population Projections.

    CAPA showed that CMAP’s forecasts were (1) a multiple of forecasts for growth in the national population; (2) higher than at any time since the 1980s; and (3) that the County’s population has actually been decreasing for six years.

    The County’s response: to hire CMAP to make more projections.

    Why?

    Because CMAP’s forecasts are “made as instructed”: CMAP produces what the County wants to hear, and the County in turns cites CMAP to justify their predetermined conclusion.

    Score: CAPA 1, County 0.

    Lack of objective traffic evidence.

    CAPA showed that CFIs built elsewhere have costs only around $5 million. This is a $135 million project.

    Where will the rest of the money, $130 million, be spent?

    Answer: on frontage roads!

    Are frontage roads needed?

    No.

    Why not?

    First, the parking lots in the malls were specifically designed and sized to accommodate the traffic flow so that frontage roads would bee superfluous.

    This is a basic design principle not only of commercial development but also of municipal planning.

    Second, McDOT’s own figures show that the traffic load on Randall Road has not increased in ten years.

    The County responds that the left turn problem at Randall and Algonquin justifies this project.

    In short, the County completely failed to respond to CAPA’s objections to the frontage roads!

    Score: CAPA 2, County 0.

    Cost.

    CAPA provided evidence that the cost of the project is four to five times the national average per mile.

    The County’s response: A description of the project with no cost per mile figures.

    Score: CAPA 3, County 0.

    Economic Impact.

    CAPA argued that the County completely failed to examine the economic affect of the project both during construction and thereafter.

    The County responded that CAPA was right: they approved the project without doing any economic analysis.

    Score: CAPA 4, County 0.

    It’s time to stop the Randall Road Robbery.

  5. This is a dumb plan.

    Why not build a bridge, No stop lights needed no fancy turn lanes.

    This plan is a waste of tax payer money.

  6. Of course there’s a decline in population.

    And there’s going to be a continuation of exodus with the taxes residents are paying in this county!!!

    We are the 29th HIGHEST in the NATION, people!!!!

    YES lil’ ol’ McHenry County is 29th highest in Real Estate taxes throughout the Whole Country!!!!

    Doesn’t this send a red flag to people?

    The Randall Rd. Expansion project will cost the county taxpayers BIG TIME seeing this is a county road.

    God help us!

    We need to present the facts to the county board and vote out anyone who votes it in.

    AND WE NEED TO MAKE SURE ANNA MILLER (the Alg. Twnsp Road Commisioners wife and highest paid admin asst. in the township) who also sits on the board, RECUSES HERSELF FROM VOTING ON ANYTHING TO DO WITH THIS MATTER!

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