Stoplight, roundabout presented for Dowell, River roads

Much like school work, intersections are given letter grades based on the level of service they provide. Grades range from “A” for free flow to an “F” for failing.

The intersection at Dowell and River roads in McHenry County is rated an F and the McHenry County Department of Transportation has come up with two different plans to upgrade it.

The plans were presented in a public meeting June 11 at the Island Lake village hall senior center.

“We showed residents some designs and presented our ideas,” said Wally Dittrich, design manager at MCDOT. “We will either go with a conventional stoplight or a roundabout.”

Many residents initially were not receptive of the idea of a roundabout. They circular intersections are relatively uncommon and can be confusing to navigate if one is not familiar with them. But after seeing a presentation outlining both options and a question-and-answer session, more residents appeared to be onboard with a roundabout, Dittrich said.

MCDOT is accepting comments and concerns from residents in an effort to fully gauge reactions to the alternatives.

A decision on which way to go will be made in about two months.

The reason MCDOT likes the roundabout is because it solves a lot of current concerns about the intersection, most notably queuing. Level-of-service ratings are based on wait times and queuing, which is how many cars back up at a signal. The Dowell and River intersection fares poorly.

“Right now the way [the intersection] is set up, the line of cars blocks driveways and roadway access points that we would have to block off so cars don’t drive through,” Dittrich said. “So from an operational standpoint, a roundabout works better.”

MCDOT proposed a modern roundabout, which is designed to operate on a basis of yield on entry, slow down, find a gap and go.

Although roundabouts require a little more land than traditional traffic lights, they also are a little less expensive.

MCDOT expects to save $400,000 dollars by constructing a roundabout. The savings comes mainly by avoiding expensive traffic-control equipment.

If the decision is for a roundabout, construction would begin in spring at the earliest with completion near then end of 2013 or in early 2014.

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