Steve Willson Does County Board’s Homework on Randall/Algonquin Road Intersection

An analysis of the need for improving the intersection of Randall and Algonquin Roads by bond analyst Steve Willson, a resident of Lakewood:

Randall/Algonquin: How Big and How Much?

The decision as to whether or by how much the Randall/Algonquin intersection should be expanded should be based on objective data, first traffic counts and then cost.

First, traffic counts.

Traffic counts show whether the amount of traffic is less than or greater than the design capacity of the intersection. Each segment of the intersection has to be evaluated individually:

  • through traffic
  • left turns
  • right turns

In May 2016, the McHenry Division of Transportation conducted counts of the traffic at the Randall/Algonquin intersection from Thursday, May 19 through Sunday, May 22. My thanks to Jeff Thorsen for obtaining a copy for me to examine.

The traffic counts prove there is no need to add through-lanes at the intersection.

According to the Highway Capacity Manual, Randall Road has the capacity to handle 3,400 through vehicles per hour in each direction.

The maximum hourly usage in either direction was less than half of this amount.

The traffic counts also prove there is no need for dedicated right turn lanes on Randall Road northbound or southbound.

The only segments of the road that showed traffic in excess of capacity were the left turn lanes on northbound and southbound Randall Road at Algonquin Road.

As the graphs below show, there were several hours per day when the number of southbound cars turning left exceeded 300, but the maximum number of cars turning left hourly during the study period was 415.

According to engineers of the Illinois Department of Transportation:

“A single left turn lane at an intersection approach can handle up to 300 vehicles per hour (designing for peak hour). Higher turning demands should consider two-left turn lanes.

At very high left-turning volumes (over 600 vehicles per hour), considering 3 left-turn lanes is appropriate.”

In short, dual left turn lanes north and south are indicated but there is no need for triple left turn lanes.

Hourly statistics on left turns made off Randall Road onto Algonquin Road.

Hourly statistics on left turns made going south off Randall Road onto Algonquin Road.

An hourly analysis of left turns made from Randall Road onto Algonquin Road heading north.

An hourly analysis of left turns made from Randall Road onto Algonquin Road heading north.

Once the need for the improvement is determined, the next question is whether the cost is reasonable.

A recent essay in the Northwest Herald stated the intersection has a $45 million price tag with $10 million dedicated to land acquisition.

According to the Highway Capacity Manual 2010 published by the Transportation Research Board, the standard lane width is 12 feet and dedicated left turn lanes should not exceed 300 feet in length.

If you multiply that out, that’s 3,600 square feet for each left turn lane, northbound and southbound, or 7,200 square feet in total. I don’t know if the County already owns sufficient right-of-way to add one lane, but there are 43,560 square feet in one acre of land, so even if the County needs to buy some land, it wouldn’t appear it needs to purchase $10 million worth of land.

With regard to the total cost of the intersection that is proposed for Randall and Algonquin, it is not necessary to rebuild the entire intersection to add one lane, only to build one extra lane for 300 feet and to re-stripe.

The average cost to build a lane mile of highway is about $1.8 million.

According to the Illinois Department of Transportation’s FY2017 Proposed Highway Improvement Program, the most expensive intersection planned for the entire state of Illinois is Illinois 56 at Illinois 53.

The cost is $30.4 million and the project includes “bridge rehabilitation, reconstruction of 2 miles, noise barriers, retaining wall, additional lanes” and more.

In short, it is a much bigger project than Randall and Algonquin, yet has a smaller price tag.

More typical is Illinois 58 (Dempster) at Niles Center Rd & U.S. 41 (Skokie Blvd).

This project includes curb and gutters, drainage, lighting, a right turn lane, left turn lanes, and traffic signal modernization, more than what’ needed at Randall and Algonquin.

It has a price tag of $3 million.

In conclusion, the objective evidence indicates that the proposed solution for the Randall/Algonquin intersection is drastically over-engineered and far more expensive than necessary.


Steve Willson Does County Board’s Homework on Randall/Algonquin Road Intersection — 18 Comments

  1. Thank you Steve for that thoughtful analysis.

    Now the question is, how do we get the County board to consider this information?

    I suppose we could bring it to the Transportation committee and they could ask their engineers to refute it.

    Any takers?

  2. Not a lot of give and take at County Board Committee meetings between citizen-taxpayers and Committee members.

  3. Our County Board just gets together and votes on stuff.

    They have no idea what the issues are or what seeking out truth entails.

    They just vote from their gut feelings.

    This feels right.

    Get rid of all of these nitwits before they end up taking us all to the poorhouse.

  4. There are several good and thoughtful people on the Board and we’ll have several more come November, with luck a new majority who will demand greater accountability from staff.

  5. Ahhh, but you missed the point — from what I heard – the need for the triple left hand turn land was necessary to obtain $30M in Federal funding for the project which lowers the total county cost compared to 2 left turn lanes w/o Fed funding.

  6. No kidding, Cliff. They keep selling us out to the feds.

    Once you take that dirty money, just watch all the strings they pull to jerk you around.

    They are selling us out.

    Look at the foolhearty vote they pulled out last night.

  7. My understanding is close to $50 million local property tax money to be used.

    (Including rta money which could replace property tax dollars spent on sheriff’s budget).

    Also, ten’s of millions local money already spent on consultants.

  8. triple lefts are due to the need to funnel cars through the intersection while still keeping the access into the shopping centers.

    if you stack the cars you mentioned in 2 lanes versus 3, longer taper bays would be required and cut off access.

  9. Dear Duh:

    I’m having trouble following your reasoning.

    First, there isn’t another intersection on Randall Road that has triple left turn lanes while many of them are near shopping centers.

    Second, the overload is only about 33% during the worst times.

    I see no reason that longer taper bays would be required.

    Third, I’ve physically examined the layout of the intersection.

    On the south side, access is not an issue.

    On the north side, it means moving one driveway back on the west side by twelve feet, which should have zero effect on access.

    If I’ve missed something, please explain.

    Thank you.

  10. Excuse me, moving one driveway on the east side, not the west side.

  11. Dear Duh:

    Thanks for the heads-up, but I’m still confused.

    Algonquin Road has fewer cars turning left than Randall.

    Based on volume, they definitely don’t need triple left turn lanes.

    Why add them now.

    Thanks in advance for your explanation.

  12. Steve it is not a volume issue from what I recall. Having triple lefts keeps the taper bays and storage bays shorter while allowing the same number of cars to pass through the intersection in the same amount of green time as a double left. This allows more green time for the through movements and for all the movements on Randall Road. There are some videos that show the stacking of cars that prevent drivers from getting into the turn lanes because there is not enough green time for the through movements. It is not a capacity issue but a traffic flow issue.

    I can’t watch this video and not believe traffic flow and safety isn’t a major issue here:

  13. here is west of Randall on Algonquin. see how much traffic backs up on Algonquin Road by caputo’s? nobody can even get into those left turn lanes, they then start cutting through the home depot lot.

    i wasn’t sold on this until that county board presentation. its one thing to look at stats and numbers and engineer gobbledygook but to see it on video really shows the problems beyond just sitting at a red light are and it’s pretty scary.

  14. Dear Duh:

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

    Personally, I rely on data more than videos because videos show only a portion of the total day’s traffic.

    I agree with you that turning left into what was formerly Caputo’s is not optimum, but I’m hard pressed to think it’s a $45 million problem.

    And I think you’ll agree the data show clearly there is NO need for triple left turn lanes north and south on Randall Road.

    I think the data indicate clearly the improvement needed on Randall is, sadly, a fraction of what has already been wasted on engineering.

  15. Duh,I believe you’ve missed the point.

    At higher than 3% property tax rate, every tax dollar spent on non-emergency projects does more harm than good, and negatively impacts every person in this county.

    Negative capitalization of excessive taxes drives our home values ever lower relative to everywhere else.

    Burden on household income annually takes from college and retirement savings, and discretionary spending budget.

    Woodstock went from 3% to 4.6% property tax rate faster than you can say ‘viciously indifferent public spending’.

  16. Susan, I think you’re the one missing the point.

    “Negative capitalization….”; “more harm than good”… blah, blah, blah. Your property value wont go down because traffic flow improves.

    You prefer to waste your time sitting in local traffic?

    What sort of clown mentality is that?

    There are excessive backups at this intersection which can result in cars sitting for 20 or more minutes.

    Because people get frustrated at sitting in traffic (not to mention waste gasoline and increase the carbon footprint with exhaust fumes), they blow through these lights at alarming rates.

    Frequent complaints about the red-light cams abound, yet it’s almost a necessity to deter people from running red lights and increasing the risk of serious accidents, which only add to the congestion.

    People stay away from this intersection at all costs – many drive behind corner stores because they do not want to sit at this high volume intersection.

    Yet that never makes the data – because who monitors the cars that use shopping centers as a shortcut.

    Southbound Randall lacks a right turn lane!!

    I haven’t seen that mentioned anywhere.

    Many of us who have lived in the area and raised our kids here recall the days when this intersection was a stop sign – merely twenty-odd years ago!

    Unfortunately, the explosive growth has exceeded the designed flowthrough traffic plans for the intersection.

    Equally unfortunate, city planners did not leave enough space to expand this roadway into the size needed to handle the excessive traffic.

    Perhaps you’d like to suggest a tollgate to use this intersection?

  17. Property tax rates in McHenry County are well above 3% of total home fair market value.

    National average property tax rates are 1.4%.

    Tax rates in Chicago are around 2.3%.

    Indiana and California have property tax rate caps of 1% of total home fair market value.

    Every resident of this county is negatively impacted by its excessive property tax rate.

    Thousands of dollars a year per household are diverted to pay property taxes for social service provision no better than 1% property tax rate communities.

    Furthermore, the loss of value of homes relative to homes everywhere else places McHenry County residents further and further behind in their ability to escape (sell here/buy elsewhere).

    Average household income in America spent on property taxes is below 4%.

    In Woodstock it is above 14% of median household income on a median value home.

    This property tax rate crisis is the single most important factor to consider when deciding frivolous spending of property tax dollars–spending which is not critical, is of narrow benefit to a small percentage of county citizens at the expense of all, and will do nothing to drive property values higher when measured against the monumental juggernaut of home-cost-of-carry double to triple the national average.

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