Local Government

McHenry County committee rejects CFI, seeks traditional Randall intersection fix

WOODSTOCK – In the end, the controversial proposal to build a continuous-flow intersection at Randall and Algonquin roads isn’t even on the table.

The McHenry County Board instead will be presented with a more conventional fix, adding turn lanes and limiting nearby entry points, which its Transportation Committee approved Wednesday after more than two hours of – at times – heated debate.

Committee members voted Wednesday, 3-2, to advance the proposal to the County Board, which could vote on it as soon as its Sept. 16 meeting. The proposed continuous-flow intersection, which would involve a serious redesign of the intersection, encountered significant opposition from area businesses and elected officials from Algonquin and Lake in the Hills.

To underscore that point, committee Chairwoman Anna May Miller, R-Cary, read a joint letter from village presidents John Schmitt and Paul Mulcahy stating that the latest CFI design proposal village leaders and other interested parties saw at a private meeting last week was universally rejected. The idea of building a CFI came up shortly after the county in 2008 began examining a way to reduce congestion on Randall Road.

“I’m very pleased with this alternative. It think it meets all the needs of this road improvement,” Mulcahy said after the meeting.

The plan approved Wednesday would add third left-turn lanes on Algonquin Road and second left-turn lanes onto Randall Road. It also would eliminate several curb cuts near the intersection and limit several retail exit points to right-in, right-out, but allow left-hand turns at others at the request of area merchants. While the overall project includes widening 3½ miles of Randall Road to six lanes from its start at Ackman Road south to the Kane County line, the proposed and unpopular CFI has dominated the discussion.

Under a CFI, the left-turn lanes at Randall Road would have started several hundred feet back at a new set of signals that would – for a stretch – direct the cars onto the oncoming traffic lanes. But building a CFI would have required the closing of other retail entry points, which Lake in the Hills argued would hurt its income – about 75 percent of its sales tax revenue comes from the Randall Road corridor.

TranSystems, the Schaumburg-based company supervising the Randall Road project, pegged the cost of both proposed intersection fixes at $16.2 million.

Vice President Todd Bright said the company could still pursue federal money to defray the cost – one of the selling points of the CFI was that $10.6 million in federal pollution mitigation funding had been promised.

The estimate would put the total cost of the Randall Road project with the conventional intersection at $66.4 million, not counting land acquisition. It was that cost, especially the unknown of how much land needed to be bought to add more lane miles, that prompted the opposing votes.

Committee members Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry, and Diane Evertsen, R-Harvard, cast the opposing votes, arguing the public should have more time to weigh in on the price tag and the County Board should have a more definitive estimate of the cost of buying the needed land. An estimate of $25 million that came earlier in the planning process is conservative, Bright conceded – his company is not tasked with acquiring the right-of-way.

“That’s a number we need to know, especially if we’re being expected to vote on this at our next meeting,” Provenzano said.

Several of the people who spoke during public comment at the start of the meeting also asked for a delay in the vote so the public can have more time to digest the figures.

Provenzano and Evertsen were outnumbered by Miller and committee members Paula Yensen, D-Lake in the Hills, and Nick Chirikos, D-Algonquin. Yensen and Chirikos, the two Democrats on the 24-member County Board, also happen to be the only two members on the committee who are running for re-election in November. Member Sandra Fay Salgado, R-McHenry, was absent, and member Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake, listened to the presentation by phone and did not cast a vote.

Provenzano and Evertsen made a failed motion to delay the vote on the project another two weeks, and failed to garner the votes to add a statement estimating the total cost including land acquisition between $96 million and $101 million.

The cost includes the $9.1 million contract with TranSystems to design the improvement, and a $1.75 million contract with Chicago-based Mathewson Right of Way Co. to acquire the needed land. The County Board approved both contracts earlier this year.

TranSystems also provided updated population projection numbers they conclude justify the need for the project. Critics of the CFI in recent years have pounced on the fact the original population growth projections dated back to before the bursting of the housing bubble and the Great Recession. The new projections, based on Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning estimates, put the county’s population at 513,517 by 2040, or an average of 1.7 percent increase a year.

But U.S. Census Bureau data released earlier this year concluded that McHenry County in fact lost population between 2010 and 2013.

In a separate move, a recess had to be taken so the committee’s legal counsel could examine Provenzano’s allegation that voting on the resolution, which contained blanks for the committee to fill in with whatever intersection option it chose, violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act. Assistant State’s Attorney Christina Webb concluded the vote was legal.

The County Board does not have to vote Sept. 16 on the Randall Road plan, and could choose to push it back. The board is tentatively scheduled to vote that evening on the proposed Unified Development Ordinance, but it is likely that vote will be pushed back to October.

How they voted

The McHenry County Board Transportation Committee voted Wednesday morning, 3-2, in favor of recommending a fix for the intersection of Randall and Algonquin roads that does not involve a continuous-flow intersection.

Voting yes were members Nick Chirikos, D-Algonquin, Paula Yensen, D-Lake in the Hills, and Chairwoman Anna May Miller, R-Cary.

Members Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry, and Diane Evertsen, R-Harvard, voted no.

Member Sandra Fay Salgado, R-McHenry, was absent. Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake, listened remotely to the presentation but did not cast a vote.

On the Net

You can read more about the project at www.randallroad.info.

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