Local

Analysis: I-90 interchange in Marengo would be an economic windfall

County Board members wary of Route 23 becoming another Randall Road

WOODSTOCK – A full interchange at Route 23 and Interstate 90 south of Marengo could mean between $538 million and more than $1.7 billion in economic impact from new jobs for McHenry County, according to an analysis unveiled to the McHenry County Board.

But as the County Board grapples with an expensive and increasingly unpopular plan to widen Randall Road, some members want assurances that Marengo won’t turn Route 23 into yet another congested amorphous shopping and residential district that one day would need a pricey fix of its own.

McHenry County Economic Development Corp. President Pam Cumpata, armed with a 28-page analysis, made the case for the proposed interchange before the County Board on Tuesday.

Building the interchange, which would give McHenry County its first, could mean between 900 and 3,594 jobs if Marengo’s dream of creating an industrial hub there is realized, according to the analysis.

“As I always say, economic development is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a process, and it is a lot of the foundation building, and this full interchange will build that foundation to allow for the potential $538 million in additional funds into McHenry County, up to the $1.7 billion as more of the long-term,” Cumpata said.

The analysis estimates a long-term economic impact of between $697 million and $2.25 billion if the construction of the interchange and the businesses themselves are factored in. The numbers are specific to McHenry County, not the region.

Supporters want to take advantage of plans by the Illinois Toll Highway Authority to replace the Route 23 overpass as part of an I-90 widening project to build an interchange that would be not only equidistant from Rockford and O’Hare airports, but also near several major rail hubs.

Marengo has annexed most of the land down Route 23 to the interstate in preparation.

The county’s five-year road improvement plan pegs the cost at $50.2 million.

McHenry County political and business leaders have long wanted an interchange within McHenry County on the small stretch of I-90 that passes through its southwest corner.

Supporters claim that the county is the largest by population in the U.S. without direct access to an interstate – Huntley’s new full interchange at Route 47 is just over the border in Kane County, as are McHenry County’s connections to I-90 on Route 31 and Randall Road.

The analysis estimates local benefit based on state and federal data from 528 economic sectors.

But although Marengo’s plan for the area is strictly industrial and related commercial, some County Board members wanted to make sure that plans also don’t include a Route 23 lined with big-box stores, rooftops and congestion.

Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry, referred to the recent Committee of the Whole meeting board members had regarding the widening of Randall Road and improving its intersection with Algonquin Road, a $97 million, two-phase project that a growing number of board members want scaled back or scrapped.

The road, which started out as an arterial alternative to Route 31, is now an economic engine with lots of development and stoplights that impede its original purpose.

“My bigger concern would be … that we immediately prepare to work with the state on long-term planning for what 23 is going to look like, so that we don’t have [Committee of the Whole meetings] in six years talking about a $100 million fix because we decided to make a commercial corridor and an arterial road at the same time,” Provenzano said.

Cumpata said Marengo’s plan does not include a commercial and residential corridor along Route 23.

County Administrator Peter Austin said the county is working to get that included in the memorandum of understanding that will determine how much of the cost of the interchange is divided among Marengo, the county, the toll authority and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Marengo city leaders and administrators have assured the County Board in person that their plans were not for “another Randall Road.”

“We want that in the memorandum of understanding on the up-front – that they’re going to stick to their plan,” Austin said.

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