Steve Willson’s Reply to Anonymous Commenter’s Charge of Lying about Randall Road’s Capacity

Commenter “Pro” wrote:

“Figures from the McHenry County Division of Transportation show that, even at rush hour, traffic on Randall Road at Algonquin does not exceed capacity, nor has traffic on that part of Randall grown in more than twelve years.”


One bottleneck?

When 62 west backs up almost to Crystal Lake Road.

Ever tried using Bunker Hill road to cross Randall heading west?

I  hate the idea of a light at Stonegate, but with more lanes and a lower speed limit – it’ll work in the commuters favor.

Steve Willson’s reply:

Dear Pro:

Below are facts that wouldn’t fit into the Northwest Herald’s 250 word limit for a letter to the editor.

The Highway Capacity manual, published by Transpiration Research Board, has formulas for measuring capacity of roads to handle traffic.

The primary factors are the number of vehicles per hour and the type of road, with modest adjustments for mix of vehicles.

Their formulas show that Randall should be able to handle 1,700 vehicles per hour per lane.

That would be 6,800 vehicles per hour for four lanes.

The County’s figures show that in 2015 that segment of Randall Road had 39,700 vehicles per day north of Algonquin and 38,086 per day south of Algonquin. (Randall Road Traffic Counts at Algonquin Road – Updated, 08/10/16).

First, those numbers are down by about 6% and 10%, respectively, since 2009.

Let us not forget that the original justification for this project in the McHenry County 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan was CMAP’s projections that the County’s population was going to grow at a rate far in excess of the nation’s rate of growth.

Obviously that has turned out to be wrong.

Second, 38,000 to 40,000 vehicles per day is, roughly, 1,600 to 1,650 vehicles per hour, and during rush hour perhaps close to 6,800.

So the numbers from the McHenry County Division of Transportation combined with information in the Highway Capacity Manual published by the Transportation Research Board show that Randall Road is never exceeding its capacity so drastically that we need to spend $97 million to fix the problem.

Finally, “Highway Construction Costs, How Does Illinois Compare”, published by the Economic Policy Institute in May 2014, states “2011 estimates of the generic cost per lane-mile to construct a new divided four lane interstate were $0.92 million for rural Illinois and $1.88 million for urban areas.”

Now, as you accused me of lying, perhaps you’d show your evidence to the contrary, specifically the number of hours per week that the traffic exceeds 6,800 and the amount by which this target is exceeded.

Then perhaps you’d show us evidence that justifies a $97 million price tag,

You might even tell us who you really are.


Steve Willson’s Reply to Anonymous Commenter’s Charge of Lying about Randall Road’s Capacity — 9 Comments

  1. I feel that we could fix Randall Road by adding a couple more turn lanes and timing the lights properly.

    Cost would be a lot less.

  2. Steve – While I agree that everything you’ve said sounds correct statistically, in my opinion, we need to dig deeper in the analysis and additionally we need a chart showing the traffic load for each hour of the day (what’s the load at 7AM, 11AM, 5PM, etc) for this discussion.

    Because while it’s true that if you divide the daily load of 38-40,000 vehicles by 24 hours, you do indeed get an hourly average of around 1650 vehicles.

    So statistically you’re correct.

    But of course in reality that hourly rate varies quite bit throughout the day.

    There are not 1600 vehicles at 2AM any more than there’s only 1600 during rush hour.

    And while you guessed that there were 6800 at rush, it was only that, a guess.

    So we need that chart.

    I’M guessing that a chart will show that saturation occurs quickly at rush hours.

    It would be interesting to see.

    And BTW, you mentioned “That would be 6,800 vehicles per hour for four lanes”, but there’s only 2 lanes in each direction, important at rush hour when (at least on Algonquin Rd.), one direction is loaded much more heavily at rush hour than the other direction (IMHO).

    So that’s really only 3400 in one direction.

    If we apply your analysis method to the intersection of Algonquin and Roselle Rd, for example, then someone needs to be indicted for squandering all that money on such an elaborate intersection (right turn lanes, double left turn lanes, 3 lanes in each direction).

    But I believe it was probably designed for PEAK traffic load (I admit I’m guessing here myself), not average hourly load.

    Outside of rush hour, while it’s a busy intersection to be sure, all that roadway isn’t needed.

    Of course, they had a lot of space for that intersection; the Algonquin/Randall intersection, not so much.

    So it was easier to build.

    So while I totally disagree with Pro that your were lying, I think we need to dig deeper in the data to see what’s really going on.

    All I know is that Algonquin/Randall intersection is VERY jammed up most of the time during the day without the rush hour.

    Rush hour? It’s bad enough on a good day.

    Is it worth that much (let’s be honest, it’s really more like $100-150 mil)?

    Well, since as you noted, traffic rates aren’t increasing, I’d say yes, because if it’s done right (HA! Whatever THAT means – different discussion), it should be good for a long time to come.

    So do it and get it over with!!

    BTW I’m also guessing that bridges aren’t designed using the “average load” method, but rather the peak load, plus some!!

  3. Dear Just Some Guy:

    I agree with you, we absolutely should have hourly traffic counts.

    In fact, it is derelict to proceed without this data.

    Yet that’s exactly what the County is doing: making hugely expensive decisions without the data the Traffic Division should have given them.

    In point of fact, I’ve tried for almost three years to get hourly traffic counts from the County without success.

    So I’ve been forced to use estimates.

    Fortunately there’s good data on the ratio of rush hour traffic to total traffic, which is how I came up with my initial estimate of 6,800 vehicles per hour during the peak period.

    And, finally, early this year we finally got hourly left turn counts from the County.

    Evidence from other traffic studies shows the ratio of left turns to through traffic is relatively constant.

    That means we can now obtain a better estimate of through traffic during rush hour.

    The ratio of daily left turns to total traffic is 7.9 to 1.

    If you multiply the maximum number of left turns per hour south (415) by 7.9, you get about 3,300.

    If you multiply the maximum number of left turns per hour north (388) by 7.9, you get about 3,000.

    Add those together and you get about 6,400 cars per hour north and south total during rush hour. Subtract the left turns from the total to get through traffic.

    That’s about 5,600 cars per hour at the peak.

    So, in conclusion, the County has failed to provide hourly counts despite repeated requests and we now have two different methods of estimating peak traffic and both are lower than the capacity of the road.

    Now, I want to ask you a question.

    Do you think I’ve made a case strong enough that it is incumbent upon the County to provide strong evidence to contradict my conclusion, both about need and cost?

    Or do you think the County should proceed to spend $97 million on the project without providing hourly traffic data and without explaining why the cost is a multiple of the average cost of building such roads in the urban areas of Illinois?

  4. I’m Pro. I mentioned this prior to this article posting, it was an accident.

    Steve Wilson — “”””Do you think I’ve made a case strong enough that it is incumbent upon the County to provide strong evidence to contradict my conclusion, both about need and cost?”””” —

    Not really.

    I’d like to get involved — Where can I find the next McH County, IDOT, Algonquin Township(ha) public forum.

    I moonlight as a delivery driver based at 62 and Randall.

    I believe muuch traffic has been diverted (thank to 12 years of roadwork), including with smaller than expected growth.

    But as traffic has been diverted, let us not mention other intersections that that are delayed, or heavily delayed because of Randall not able to move the amount of traffic it should.

    Randall and 62 are not friendly when you include the risks that I outlined, out of haste quickly.

    Something needs to be done – or as this blog fears – it WIll become more dangerous and taxing in the next 10 years.

    This isn’t a band-aid, it’s needed to prevent lack of growth and gridlock.

    What happens in ten years when the numbers only grow by 4,000 commuters, most of which in Rush Hour?

    (snark) Numbers are for the liberal.

  5. The accusation that I called S. Wilson a liar is bogus.

    I called his statement, from “Figures from the McHenry County Division of Transportation” lies.


    2014 2015
    6 Illinois Route 47 E 5,886,702(million) 6,265,610 6.4%
    7 Marengo-Hampshire M1 6,961,725 7,990,153 14.8%
    8 Randall Road R 2,061,961 2,553,250 23.8%
    9 Elgin M 28,972,585 30,122,939 4.0%
    10 Barrington Road R 3,271,988 3,103,301 -5.2%
    11 Illinois Route 31 R 6,677,060 6,078,903 -9.0%
    12 Roselle Road R 3,861,867 3,757,738 -2.7%
    13 Illinois Route 25 R 1,917,587 1,821,019 -5.0%
    14 Illinois Route 59 R 2,916,774 3,082,690 5.7%

  7. Kein, I’ll give you credit — you called me a liar and then you apologized.

    Not many people are willing to apologize.

    That says something good about you.

    But I don’t control what’s published on this blog.

    As for your opinion of the expansion project, your arguments to date amount to “that segment of road is crowded, therefore whatever solution they propose and no matter what the cost, I’m for it”.

    Let me ask you a couple of questions.

    If this project were to cost a trillion dollars, would you favor it?

    I’ll bet the answer is no.

    Which means we’re in agreement that there is some reasonable way to measure whether a project costs a reasonable amount.

    I’ve put forward a reasonable method and documented it.

    You haven’t.

    If the County proposed ten lanes in each direction, would you favor it?

    Again, I’ll bet the answer is no.

    So again we’re in agreement that there are reasonable solutions and unreasonable solutions.

    I’ve put forward substantial evidence that with the exception of the left turn issue, the road is not so crowded as to require huge and expensive expansion.

    Think about it: do we want crowded roads or empty roads?

    We don’t want the intersection at Algonquin and Randall to be like the infamous Hillside Strangler.

    And, fortunately, it isn’t.

    But if the roads are empty, that means we’ve overbuilt and wasted tax dollars.

    On the other hand, roads that are full of cars but moving at or near the speed limit most of the time are low cost roads.

    I’ve driven Randall and Algonquin for 29 years.

    I’ve driven it at all times of the day and night.

    And what I’ve found is that at rush hour, my trip is literally two to three minutes longer.

    About a third of the time, during rush hour, I have to wait for two red lights to get through the intersection instead of just one red light.

    If they put in two left turn lanes, it would fix that problem.

    The solution they propose is three left turn lanes, which is not justified by the amount of traffic.

    And while they’ll increase the number of through lanes, they’ll lower the speed limit.

    Net gain to drivers in time, even in rush hour: net zero or maybe one or two minutes.

    Net zero because even at rush hour, while the roads are crowded, they’re not beyond capacity.

    The biggest reason traffic moves below the posted speed limit on Randall Road is because of all the traffic lights.

    That’s not going to change if they increase the number of lanes.

  8. Ken:

    Last point: your figures for the toll road, seven miles away from the intersection, are irrelevant.

    First, if that is sufficient justification for expanding Randall Road and putting in three left turn lanes, then it must also be sufficient justification for expanding any road within a seven mile radius of that particular exit.

    Clearly that’s not the case.

    Second, we have data that is exactly relevant: traffic on all four segments of the road immediately adjacent to the intersection of Randall and Algonquin.

    Those figures show no growth in traffic on Randall Road in more than ten years, which is consistent with the fact that population out here has quit growing.

    And the figures show the traffic does not exceed the capacity of the road.

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