Tollway talks motivating Marengo’s annexation plan

MARENGO – The Illinois Tollway Authority gave Marengo officials the next six months to present an initial interchange design as the agency prepares to retool area bridges for its Interstate 90 widening project.

Marengo must have its boundaries extended along Route 23 to I-90 before that point to have the “standing” to develop the preliminary designs, City Manager Gary Boden said.

In the face of resistance, city officials have been trying all year to annex nearly 2,400 acres southwest of its borders to reach I-90 and begin formal talks with the Tollway about financing a new interchange intended to spur future development in the area.

“The fact of the matter is until we are annexed up to the interstate, we can’t take a formal lead,” Boden said.

The city’s annexation plan cuts through Riley Township, whose officials routinely have criticized Marengo for acting too fast and disregarding proper planning in seeking to add the extra acreage.

But Boden said Marengo will have its boundaries extended to I-90 in “the next several months” to complete time-intensive soil studies along I-90 that are needed for a preliminary interchange design.

Tollway spokeswoman Jan Kemp said the agency already has begun planning to rebuild numerous bridges, including Route 23, in the agency’s I-90 widening project, which will add driving lanes from Chicago to Rockford.

“The Tollway has advised Marengo officials that a preliminary design for a proposed interchange would be needed within the next six months to ensure that the bridge we build can accommodate a future interchange,” Kemp said.

The Tollway has just begun informally talking with Marengo, McHenry and DeKalb counties, and the state transportation department about a new interchange at Route 23 and I-90, Kemp said.

The Tollway has made more than $100 million available to communities along I-90 for new interchange construction, as part of the Tollway’s widening project, Kemp said.

The agency already has fielded requests from more than a half-dozen communities, which like Marengo are competing for limited Tollway construction funds.

The preliminary interchange design would be an early step in a complex, and often lengthy, planning process before the Tollway endorses funding for a new interchange.

It took Huntley nearly a decade of planning before the Tollway officially endorsed funding for the $61 million interchange at Route 47 and I-90 that now is being constructed.

Huntley’s approach to the project is regarded as the model for any Illinois community wanting to build an interchange with the Tollway.

Village officials gathered commitments from local governments, including McHenry and Kane counties, before presenting its financing plan to the Tollway. The local portion covered 50 percent of the project costs, with Huntley footing about $5.4 million of the bill.

“The key is the local share,” Huntley Village Manager Dave Johnson said. “It gives you more credibility when you go meet with the Tollway.”

Likewise, Marengo would start to intensify discussions on financing an interchange at Route 23 with the likes of McHenry and DeKalb counties, once the city’s borders are extended to I-90, Boden said.

McHenry County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill said the county has yet to discuss financing a Route 23 interchange.

The County Board is “waiting and seeing” how Marengo advances the project before County Board members start debating financial proposals in committee, she said.

“We have no position on this. It hasn’t been discussed at any level. It’s a decision that is left up to Marengo,” Hill said. “It’s in their ballpark now. We are waiting on Marengo.”

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