Board members after a lengthy debate Tuesday morning agreed to meet to discuss not only the future of the project, but also to resolve what Chairman Joe Gottemoller called a problem with the board’s committee structure that has contributed to an impasse regarding allocating more money for land acquisition.
The board’s Transportation Committee voted to reject spending an additional $10 million toward land purchase. The Finance and Audit Committee, which also has to approve expenditures, did not do so, but sent the request back to Transportation.
“This morning, I’m asking this board to give guidance to the rest of the board as to the acquisition of Randall Road right-of-way; and while we’re at it, the board needs to decide how we’re going to move forward on Randall Road," said Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake. “Whether we’re in favor of it or against it, that’s all fine, but I think we have to solve the underlying committee problem, as to how we’re going to go forward with this board.”
A date for the Committee of the Whole had not been set as of late Tuesday afternoon. Such meetings are used for discussion, but no votes are taken.
A growing faction of the County Board has questioned whether the proposed $97 million improvement project is appropriate in its current form, or even necessary at all.
It has been on the County Board’s list of road improvements since 2002, and the first study of it began 12 years ago. Gottemoller said at least $9 million has been spent to date.
The project is planned to be taken down in two phases. The first would widen Randall Road to six lanes from Harnish Drive in Algonquin north to Polaris Drive in Lake in the Hills. That would include improving its intersection with Algonquin Road by adding more turn lanes and eliminating some entry points.
The second phase would widen the road to six lanes from Polaris Drive north to Ackman Road.
Before the debate even started, officials from both Algonquin and Lake in the Hills stressed that the improvements are necessary and implored the McHenry County Board not to scuttle them.
Lake in the Hills Village President Paul Mulcahy said a major business that wants to move into the vacant Dominick’s at the intersection is closely watching what the County Board does with the improvements. Mulcahy said that businesses along Randall Road pay sales, property and motor-fuel taxes, and deserve the work to reduce traffic congestion.
“The plan that is currently on the table for Randall Road, and the intersection of Randall and Algonquin [roads], provides those things that they have been paying for for 20 years. Please move the Randall Road project forward. Improve that intersection … you owe that to all the residents of McHenry County. It will benefit all the residents of McHenry County,” Mulcahy said.
Algonquin Village President John Schmitt told the County Board that congestion will only get worse, and cited a Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning statistic that claims McHenry County will grow to more than 500,000 people in the coming decades.
He said the tax revenue the county gets from Algonquin business along Randall Road – $120 million in sales tax, $120 million in mass-transit road tax, and $800,000 in property taxes – is in jeopardy without improvements.
“You can say, ‘Well, it’s there,’ but it will go away. It will reduce if we allow the traffic to stagnate and don’t improve Randall Road,” Schmitt said.
Board members on both sides of the issue sounded off before making the decision to hold a special meeting dedicated to the Randall Road issue.
Michael Rein, R-Woodstock, said he believes the improvement is unnecessary and that dire warnings of gridlock are overblown. Member Michael Walkup, R-Crystal Lake, questioned CMAP’s population projections, pointing out that the county in recent years has lost population and last year gained only several hundred more residents.
“It’s not that bad. Yes, it’s traffic. But that’s what normal rush hour is,” Rein said.
But supporters, such as Carolyn Schofield, R-Crystal Lake, called the improvements absolutely necessary. She said she picks routes to avoid having to drive through the intersection of Randall and Algonquin roads.
“I didn’t move out to McHenry County to be in the middle of Schaumburg,” Schofield said.