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Richmond business owners worry about Route 12 proposal

RICHMOND – As traffic counts continue to climb on Route 12, traveling through the heart of Richmond's downtown, state and local agencies are assessing whether there's a better way to go.

Many alternative routes have proposed over the many years this study has been in the works, and until relatively recently, around 2010, it looked like the bypass would travel west along a right-of-way corridor purchased by the Illinois Department of Transportation in the 1960s for a highway.

The wetlands along the Nippersink Creek at the northern end of the corridor, though, fall into the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge corridor and federal agencies, including the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, strongly object to building there, according to public presentations.

Other routes east of town run into homes – something the village finds unacceptable – or hit the Elizabeth Lake Nature Preserve. Going through the preserve would require the governor's approval.

After three rounds of public input and evaluation, all the proposed routes travel circumvent the downtown but rejoin Route 12 via Route 173.

"Our preference has all along been where the state has land," Village President Pete Koenig said. "But as far as preference for anything north of 173, we're pretty much out of options."

This has some Richmond business owners along the northern stretch of Route 12 worried that a widening of the road will cut into their parking lots or require them to relocate.

The state could decide to go with four lanes, two in each direction, or two lanes with a center turn lane, both of which would require the road to be widened, Koenig said.

D'Narda Goehring has owned Richmond Canvas for 32 years. Old cans and bottles line the wall of her workshop at 10819 N. Main St. along with pictures, signs and other mementos.

A drive leads down to the garage from the north with a small area in front of the garage doors to back in. 

"I sure wouldn't want anymore of the front taken away," Goehring said. "I wouldn't be able to pull a boat in."

Koenig also raised a concern that any of the bypass proposals – excluding the no-build option that will remain on the table throughout the process – will hurt Richmond's economy with fewer travelers stopping at local businesses.

While about 17,000 vehicles a day travel through downtown Richmond, traffic is estimated to grow to 22,000 vehicles a day, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. Traffic capacity for a two-lane road is 16,000 vehicles a day.

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