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Our View: Slow down in Marengo

Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

We don’t blame Marengo for wanting to grow.

The economy hasn’t been too friendly to many places recently, and growth is one way to jump-start a local city.

Much of Marengo’s plan to attract commercial, industrial and residential development is predicated on courting the Illinois Tollway Authority into building an interchange at Route 23 and Interstate 90.

As part of that effort, the city wants to annex seven parcels in Riley Township – part of that land is owned by two asphalt companies – that would add about 2,400 acres into Marengo. It also would put the city limits closer to I-90.

The county needs an I-90 interchange. McHenry County is the most populous county in the country without direct access to an interstate highway within its borders. Route 23 is likely the logical place to have an interchange built.

But that’s a discussion and decision that should be made with input from local municipalities, county government and the state, not one city. Marengo officials have said they are informally speaking with the county and tollway about it.

But the city doesn’t appear to be off to a good start when it comes to teamwork: Riley Township officials have expressed multiple concerns about the proposed expansion, including that Marengo is moving too fast on the annexations and whether it can properly monitor the gravel pits it would inherit through the annexations.

The first action Marengo aldermen took at their meeting Monday was to postpone voting on some of the proposed annexations, a move that did not allow any public comments on that topic that night. Riley Supervisor Karen Schnable said she was “disappointed” the council wouldn’t let her speak about the issue.

A solid plan – including what needs to be done before an interchange is built and how to pay for it – should be initiated before other steps are taken to ensure that the project is feasible.

Marengo City Manager Gary Boden said the Tollway Authority informed the city in December that nearly $125 million will be available, possibly as early as this year, for interchange construction along I-90 between Chicago and Rockford.

Boden has said a Marengo interchange would cost between $55 million and $60 million, with local agencies and the tollway authority splitting costs 50-50.

If Marengo wants other local agencies to pitch in on that 50 percent, it should start by slowing down and welcoming input from other local governments.

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