McHenry County Board OKs money for Marengo's I-90/Route 23 interchange engineering

Board votes to reimburse Marengo for proposal’s startup design costs

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board voted to reimburse Marengo for preliminary engineering for a full Interstate 90 and Route 23 interchange, over the objections of a minority questioning the need.

Board members voted Tuesday evening, 15-7, to pay $289,608 in motor fuel tax funds toward startup design costs for the proposed interchange south of town. The interchange could cost at least $60 million if it goes forward.

Member Michael Rein, R-Woodstock, was among those who questioned whether a full interchange would be the economic engine that supporters have hyped. And with a new governor attempting deep budget cuts to address the state’s budget crisis, he said, the county does not have a guarantee that either the Illinois Toll Highway Authority or the Illinois Department of Transportation will be able to cover their share of the costs.

“With Gov. [Bruce] Rauner cutting back a lot of things right now, we don’t know who’s going to be participating,” Rein said.

But supporters, like member Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake, called the project one that would help the local economy, pointing to the recently completed full interchange at I-90 and Route 47 in Huntley.

“This is one of those projects that is very forward-thinking, and about the future of McHenry County,” Koehler said.

While supporters pointed to the Route 47 interchange as a success story to justify building one at Route 23, opponents point to the interchange with Route 20 which lies in between, which skeptics allege has not turned into anything substantial.

“The philosophy of, 'Build it and they will come' sounds very nice, but I don’t think we want to put our eggs in one basket at this time,” board member Diane Evertsen, R-Harvard, said.

Joining the opposition were Riley Township Supervisor Karen Schnable and Highway Commissioner David Diamond, both of whom spoke against the proposal during public comment before the debate. They cited the rural nature of the area, its miles-long distance from Marengo’s existing infrastructure, and nearby Coon Creek, which Schnable warned floods several times a year.

But supporters like Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry, said the interchange would bring business and industry, and therefore help diminish a McHenry County residential property tax burden that at least one study puts in the top 30 for all counties nationwide.

“This is one of the ways that we do that,” Provenzano said.

Board members rejected, 13-9, a proposed amendment by Mary McCann, R-Woodstock, to require Marengo to submit an economic viability report to determine the return on the taxpayer investment. McCann hesitantly voted in favor of approving the engineering expense after her amendment failed.

Marengo has been annexing land in an effort to extend city limits to I-90 in hopes of securing a full 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.

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