County Board Appointment Interview – Randall Road

When McHenry County Board Chairman Joe Gottemoller and three other members were interviewing four applicants who wish to serve out Metra Board member Ken Koehler remaining term, Gottemoller asked a series of questions about road construction.

Randall Road on Tuesday, June 24, 2014, about noon.

Randall Road on Tuesday, June 24, 2014, about noon.

“Should we improve Randall and Algonquin Roads?” was the first question.

Answering first was custom home builder John Reinert.

He asked for more studies, mentioning specifically traffic counts.

Jeff Thorsen

Jeff Thorsen

Banker and long-time Crystal Lake City Councilman Jeff Thorsen said that the “intersection could use improvement,” but questioned the cost of the $100 million or so project.

Gottemoller said the cost was not yet known, that it depended on whether Randall Road was expanded to six lanes.

The originally proposed Continuous Flow Intersection (which Gottemoller pointed out in a preface to his question was no longer under consideration) would have hurt Lake in the Hills, Thorsen explained.

“If I’m an engineer I want to do it up as good as I can,” he continued. He suggested engineers could “over cross the ‘t’s’ and over dot the ‘i’s’.”

Cameron Hubbard

Cameron Hubbard

Next up was financial advisor and thre-year Crystal Lake City Councilman Cameron Hubbard.

He explained that Randall Road was “literally in my back yard” one block from his home.

“It’s a nightmare.

“We need to move forward.

“It’s going to be a great deal of money.

“It’s important to improve the infrastructure, [especially] main routes.”

Tom McDermott

Tom McDermott

The final applicant to take on the question was former Arnold Engineering Sales Manager and long-time Crystal Lake Republican Precinct Committeeman Tom McDermott.

Saying he was thinking “outside the box,” McDermott said,

“If we were to build another lane, there would be the same amount of traffic.”

He suggested making Ackmann Road four-lanes all the way through to Route 47 to relieve traffic on Algonquin Road. Connecting Ackmann from Haligus, where Ackmann now ends, to Route 47 is in County plans, but not four lanes, I believe.]

He also suggested extending Algonquin Road west of Route 47. [That is also a county plan.]


County Board Appointment Interview – Randall Road — 10 Comments

  1. For every public policy decision, there is an objective method of determining the proper course of action.

    It is the job of the staff to explain the objective method to the elected officials and to provide all the relevant evidence.

    If the staff instead is an advocate for more projects and does NOT explain the proper method for making an objective decision and does NOT provide the objective evidence, then the staff is part of the problem.

    It is the job of the elected officials to be a check on the bureaucracy, to be the taxpayers’ watchdog.

    Any candidate who simply accepts staff advice at face value is doing the exact opposite of their job and should not be appointed.

    Any candidate who says a project is “needed” without considering the cost fails in his or her duty to the citizens.

    In the case of a major road project, the objective method is similar to that used for toll roads.

    First, determine on ah hourly basis the extent to which traffic exceeds the capacity of the road.

    The Highway Capacity Manual, published by the Transportation Research Board, provides objective formulae for such a determination.

    The staff should have provided this formula and should have provided hourly numbers to plug into such formulae.

    Next, compare the cost versus the benefit.

    The full annual cost of the improvement should be calculated by amortizing the construction cost over the life of the project and adding the increase in the annual maintenance cost.

    This annual cost should be divided by the number of BENEFITTED trips annually.

    I stress the word “BENEFITTED”.

    The cost should NOT be divided by the total number of trips because cars that do NOT use this intersection during rush hours DERIVE ZERO BENEFIT from the change. (I refuse to use the word “improvement” because it is probably not accurate.)

    This cost can be translated into an hourly cost per driver and also compared with the average Illinois toll.

    My initial estimates are that the benefitted drivers would save at most a minute or two per day at a cost comes of well over $45 per hour and several times the cost of the typical Illinois toll road.

    If my figures are born out, then the project is not justified.

    Finally, board members should ask staff for information on how much such projects cost elsewhere in Illinois and in other states and explain in detail why the cost in McHenry County is a multiple of what nearby states pay for such projects, states that have the same winter conditions as Illinois.

  2. Steve – sounds good, but …. that’s just not the way things are done in The Land of Lincoln.

    Sarc off.

  3. I really don’t mind spending a couple more minutes getting to my Randall Road destination.

    Traffic in McHenry County is a pittance at most all times.

    Anyone who feels it is a big concern, hasn’t spent much time on the Dan Ryan Expressway.

    Steve, as usual, has outlined the practical considerations of whether the Randall Road project is worthy of the tax payers valuable money.

    It clearly is not.

    Many of the County Boards more honest and principled members knew that was the case and expressed those opinions when the vote was secured to proceed with the project.

    Shame on the board members whose motivations lie with special interests, rather than the best interests of their constituents.

  4. Steve, I believe no other area in this country has the same winter whether conditions.

    ro Chicago area west of the Big Muddy has the worst freeze thaw verse traffic pressure.

    Northern Ind, south Mich and northern Ohio to Pittsburgh Pa is also in the worst part of the Salt Belt, but conditions with freeze thaw not quite as bad as here.

    A more pin pointed area cost would be a better comparison than the whole of any of those other states.

    I’ll say this from experience, Don’t drive on Randall Black Friday.

    Last year it took at least 15 min from Miller Rd south to Alg Rd.

    That day a double left turn and third lane would of definitely helped.

  5. As to Karma’s comment:
    I’d agree this is not a good time to pile on and look for road pork from the State or even Fed.

  6. I think the point Steve Willson is trying to make is that one does not build roads for their peak load.

  7. Interesting question to ask applicants.

    Last I was aware, we had determined the plan.

    Guess I’ll be making some phone calls.

  8. Today’s peak load, in ten or twenty years could be the average load.

    It’s all a guesting game we seem to never get right.

    My guess is that county’s population will grow again if sex isn’t banned.

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