McHenry County preparing to start design work for Randall Road project
With McHenry County negotiating a contract with two engineering firms to design proposed Randall Road improvements, the debate over whether there should be a continuous flow intersection along the corridor will rev back up.
Earlier this month, county officials introduced members of Transystems and Bollinger Lach & Association to members of the Lake in the Hills and Algonquin village boards.
The two firms are negotiating a contract with the county to design the improvements and blueprints for the project, which includes widening Randall Road to six through-lanes, three in each direction, from Ackman Road to County Line Road. The improvements would be made to accommodate 2030 traffic volumes.
That phase two engineering work, along with land acquisition, is expected to take about two years, County Engineer Joseph Korpalski said.
The contract could be finalized this winter, Korpalski said.
And as engineering and design moves forward, county officials have emphasized that they still want to listen to input from both of the villages.
At both meetings, the firms heard concerns about the county’s proposal of a CFI at the intersection of Randall and Algonquin roads.
The county is considering a CFI because it lowers wait times for vehicles much more than a conventional intersection would, and increases the chances the county receives federal funding for the project.
When the federal government considers giving funding to a project, it wants to make sure the improvements that are made still are effective both after they’re first completed and many years into the future, Assistant County Engineer Jeff Young said.
When vehicles have to wait at an intersection for several light cycles before drivers can go through, “that’s when it becomes unacceptable,” Young said. “What we’re trying to do is get to as little delay as possible.”
With the least amount of delay possible, vehicles spend less time idling, burning less fuel and emitting fewer chemicals out of exhausts pipes, which can be a key issue because the Chicago-area doesn’t meet clean air goals set by the federal Clean Air Act, Young said.
Improvements to Randall Road are estimated to cost $80 million. Federal funding could pay for up to $64 million for the project, as federal grants usually account for 80 percent of a project cost, Young said.
As for construction costs at the intersection of Algonquin and Randall, a conventional intersection is estimated to cost $12 million and a CFI would cost $13 million, according to county documents.
As blueprints for the project are drawn, a final a decision on whether to include a CFI will have to be made.
“As to the final decision, the time on that is hard to say,” Young said.
The Lake in the Hills Village Board has steadfastly been against a CFI at Algonquin and Randall, as plans would close many of the access points to businesses near the intersection.
Village President Paul Mulcahy said that 70 percent to 80 percent of the village’s retail sales tax revenue comes from businesses to the north of the intersection.
“If you make it very difficult for people to get into those and get out of those businesses, people are going to stop coming, and we’re going to have empty buildings,” Mulcahy said. “’We can’t live with that.”
If a CFI is part of the final plans, village officials said they would try to prevent federal funds from coming to the project.
“Our village would work to see they can’t get federal funding for it,” Mulcahy said. “But if they are willing to do a conventional intersection, we would ... lead the charge to help find funding.”
Anna May Miller, chairwoman of the County Board’s Transportation Committee, said federal funding is now based on a competitive process.
“We send our federal dollars to Washington. It would be nice to get them back,” Miller said. “If we didn’t get federal dollars, we’ll have to be creative in funding the improvements.”
She said that even though the county has completed its phase one engineering, which includes impacts on the surrounding environment and socio-economic impacts of improvements such as impacts on homes and businesses, there can still be changes made to the plans.
As phase two engineering takes place, engineers will work with the county division of transportation and the local communities and businesses to get their input.
Miller said some money in the engineering contract will need to be allocated for education and outreach, whether it be door-to-door efforts, sending letters to affected people or open forums.
“We recognize the value of collaboration in whatever moves forward,” Miller said.
If a CFI is ultimately selected, there will need to be efforts to help people learn how to navigate the intersection, such as through driver’s education classes.
“Hopefully, we put in an improvement that is a benefit to everyone,” Miller added.
Federal ratings for intersection wait times:
A: Less than 10 seconds
B: 10 to 20 seconds
C: 20 to 35 seconds
D: 35 to 55 seconds
E: 55 to 80 seconds
F: Greater than 80 seconds
The current average delay during peak hours at Randall and Algonquin is 126 seconds. If no action is taken, the average delay is estimated to be 460 seconds in 2030. Going with a conventional intersection with six through-lanes would bring the delay to 93 seconds. A CFI would provide a 38-second delay.
Travel on Randall Road from County Line to Ackman:
In 2030, during an afternoon peak hour, it would take 26 minutes to travel the corridor with a conventional intersection at Randall and Algonquin. It would take 8 minutes with a CFI.