Local Government

McHenry County Board to take up Marengo interchange

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board will vote later this month whether to move forward with funding preliminary engineering for a full interchange at Interstate 90 and Route 23 south of Marengo.

Board members will decide at their March 17 meeting whether to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Marengo and allocate $289,608 toward the startup engineering costs. The city already has spent $274,706 toward the effort – the total cost of the interchange is estimated at $60 million.

The County Board Transportation Committee recommended approval of the funding on a 4-2 vote Wednesday morning. Committee Vice-Chairwoman Tina Hill, R-Woodstock, called the measure a single step and a “well-calculated risk” toward determining whether an interchange can become a reality.

“I think this is a project to try and move forward,” Hill said.

Backers of the idea maintain that a full interchange will spark economic development and job growth in McHenry County, especially in the southwest corner. None of McHenry County’s connections with I-90 actually lie within the county – the recently-finished full interchange at Route 47 in Huntley is in Kane County, as are I-90’s interchanges with Randall Road and Route 31.

But opponents, such as Diane Evertsen, R-Harvard, question the cost versus the benefit, and point out that spending the money to examine feasibility is no guarantee that the state will approve the project. Evertsen was one of two “no” votes in committee.

“Once they start a study and spending money, there’s no end to it. It’s a foregone conclusion … we’ll get a study done that fits in with our desire. We’ve seen it happen before,” Evertsen said.

The $289,608 allocation from the county’s motor fuel tax will most likely pass, given that the full County Board approved a resolution of general support for the project last September on a 19-4 vote.

Marengo has been annexing land in an effort to extend city limits to I-90 in hopes of securing a full tollway interchange, and being able to capitalize on any development that comes as a result. A developer recently bought 255 acres of an 831-acre farm in Marengo in January for $4.7 million near the proposed interchange.

County Board Chairman Joe Gottemoller cited a full interchange as a boon for the county in his first State of the County Address last month.

Both the Illinois Toll Highway Authority and the Illinois Department of Transportation have supported the project – the toll authority already is planning to rebuild the Route 23 bridge over I-90 as part of its ongoing tollway widening project. But state funding for such a project may not be guaranteed, given that new Gov. Bruce Rauner is trying to significantly tighten the state’s belt to deal with state government’s deep fiscal problems.

“Why is it that we need toll road access where the lowest population density is? Is this to speed the exit of taxpayers from McHenry County?” Evertsen said.

What it means

The McHenry County Board Transportation Committee voted, 4-2, to recommend spending $289,608 toward preliminary engineering for a full interchange at I-90 and Route 23 south of Marengo.

Voting yes were Chairwoman Anna May Miller, R-Cary, Tina Hill, R-Woodstock, Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry, and Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake. Voting no were Don Kopsell, R-Crystal Lake, and Diane Evertsen, R-Harvard. Committee member John Hammerand, R-Wonder Lake, was absent.

A formal County Board vote will come at its March 17 meeting.

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