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McCaleb: Commuter frustration continues

In McHenry County, it seems, you never fully escape commuter hell.

Anyone who drove Route 31 between Crystal Lake and McHenry during Thursday’s snowstorm can attest to that.

OK, anyone who commuted anywhere Thursday evening likely could, too.

That’s winter in northern Illinois. Or, that’s what winter used to be, anyway.

But winter driving isn’t the focus of today’s ramblings. The other season here is. You know, construction.

It likely won’t take much for you to recall the last one. Seemingly every north-south roadway in and near Crystal Lake was under construction last year.

At one point, I thought the city had adopted road-construction orange as its official color.

There was Pingree Road at Congress Parkway. Route 176 and Briarwood Road. Northshore Drive. Crystal Lake Avenue. Rakow Road. Various projects on Route 31.

I could go on and on.

For all the commuter complaining, it’s been well worth the frustration for the projects that are completed. I can attest to that on Rakow Road. I drive it almost every day. The free flow of traffic today is well worth two years of stop-and-go-and-stop, as was the case during the widening project.

After all of last summer’s projects, you’d think that there couldn’t possibly be anything left to do this coming season.

Of course, you’d be wrong.

Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley detailed upcoming road projects Friday at the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the Community Luncheon.

So what’s in store? Here are a few:

• Route 14 will be widened to four lanes from Crystal Lake Avenue in Crystal Lake to Lake Shore Drive in Woodstock. Construction is to start late this summer, and will continue through 2014.

• The 2-mile stretch of McHenry Avenue from Route 14 past Crystal Lake South High School to Rakow Road will be resurfaced this summer, with a right turn lane added at Barlina Road. Infrastructure improvements will be made near Nash Road, as well.

• The Route 176 and Walkup Avenue project will resume and should be completed by early summer.

• Route 176 will be realigned at Route 31 beginning this spring. The five-leg intersection will turn into four legs, with through lanes added on 176.

Not on Shepley’s list but certainly of interest to local commuters is the Interstate 90 interchange project on Route 47.

The bad news is that we can expect another summer of construction orange. The good news is that, once this season is over – and certainly after the next – many of the most-need road projects in the area will be completed.

• • • 

Avoiding headaches: As I said above, if you were on McHenry County roads during rush hour Thursday, chances are your commute was slow going.

But the Northwest Herald helped motorists navigate away from the worst roads throughout the afternoon and into the evening.

First, we updated our story at NWHerald.com close to a dozen times during the height of the storm. Early on in the storm, we sent reporter Jim Dallke out with a video camera to give online viewers an idea of what they were facing.

We also sent text messages to readers who subscribe to our news alert service, telling them to avoid Route 31 and Algonquin Road early during the storm because of a crash, and warning them about Route 31 between McHenry and Crystal Lake later. We also posted constant updates on our Twitter feed, @NWHerald.

If nothing else, we helped some motorists avoid the worst areas.

If you don’t receive our text alerts and want to give them a try, you can do so by visiting NWHerald.com and clicking on the link that says “Register” on the top right of the home page.

Readers can sign up for any number of options, including breaking news, breaking sports news, daily weather forecasts, even deals from PlanitNorthwest.com, our go-and-do website for McHenry County.

• • • 

Give us your recipes: The Northwest Herald debuts a new feature and contest this week. We’re currently soliciting recipes from readers and, each Wednesday, we’ll pick a winner and publish it in our PlanitTaste section.

The feature is sponsored by local merchants, and prizes will be awarded.

You can enter the contest online at http://shawurl.com/recipe, or by mailing them to Recipes of the Week, C/O Lifestyle Editor Valerie Katzenstein, 7717 S. Ill. Route 31, Crystal Lake, IL 60014. Please include all the ingredients and cooking instructions in your submissions.

Questions? Call Katzenstein at 815-526-4529.

• • • 

Let’s talk: Readers in the southwest part of McHenry County can visit me today at the Marengo-Union Chamber of Commerce 2013 Expo at Marengo Community High School, 110 Franks Road.

I’ll be staffing the Northwest Herald’s booth from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Drop by with questions, comments, criticisms, story ideas or just to chat.

I hope to see you there.

• Dan McCaleb is editor of the Northwest Herald and group editor of Shaw Media’s suburban group. He can be reached at 815-526-4603, or by email at dmccaleb@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Dan_McCaleb.

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