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Our view: Support for commuter lot

Published: Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Parking lots do not usually generate a lot of excitement.

A lot is just a stretch of concrete, usually devoid of any notable structures or landscaping.

But we think a plan to build a 110-space lot at the reconfigured Route 31 and Virginia Road intersection in Lake in the Hills is a smart idea.

The planned park-and-ride facility on the southwestern corner will be a place for people to park and meet to carpool. It will have 105 regular spaces and five handicap spaces. Early designs include an area for a gazebo or shelter, and an area for buses to turn around if Pace decides to add a stop in the area. It will be free to use, and there’s no plan to limit time on how long a vehicle can be left there.

There is a need for this project of this size and purpose, according to a study by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. That study found residents from Algonquin, Cary, Crystal Lake and Lake in the Hills carpool to work in the Schaumburg area. McHenry County officials say those carpooling meet in parking lots of shopping centers, and this lot will provide a safe meeting place.

Anyone who routinely travels Route 31 can attest to the constant gridlock on that road. Recent steps to ease the congestion include last summer’s $8.5 million widening of Route 31 where it intersects Virginia and Klasen roads, or the ongoing multimillion-dollar Algonquin Western Bypass project that will construct a 2.11-mile, four-lane divided highway at Algonquin Road and Route 31.

Encouraging carpooling is one more way to ease traffic — can motorists really object to fewer vehicles on the road? — and it’s an environmentally friendly one at that. Fewer vehicles means reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

It also saves each carpool member money on gas, parking fees and wear-and-tear of their own vehicles. And those not driving can get in some extra preparation for the day, eat breakfast or maybe even get a few more minutes of sleep during the ride.

McHenry County owns the property, and the Lake in the Hills Village Board approved a variance Thursday that will allow the project to move forward.

The county received about $1 million in a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Grant to design and construct the parking lot. Construction is set to start in the summer and take a few months.

When it’s done, we hope residents take advantage of it.

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