WOODSTOCK – The long-awaited desire by many planners to have access to an interstate highway in McHenry County is making its way through County Board committees for a formal September vote.
The Transportation Committee, on two 6-1 votes earlier this week, recommended approval of agreements regarding who will pay for what regarding the proposed full interchange at Interstate 90 and Route 23 south of Marengo. Bids will be let this fall should the full County Board give the OK to the memorandum of understanding with state agencies and the intergovernmental agreement with Marengo for the design costs.
Committee member Diane Evertsen, R-Harvard, who opposes the project, cast the “no” votes. Evertsen has questioned the need and the area’s environmental suitability for growth, and has been skeptical of assurances that an interchange will not turn Route 23 into another Randall Road filled with subdivisions, shopping and the congestion that comes with them.
The county’s latest five-year transportation plan pegs the total cost spread out among various governments at $32 million, refined from earlier estimates in previous versions of more than $50 million.
The project is divided into two phases. The first phase is the rebuilding of the Route 23 overpass, which the state was planning to do anyway, with the additions of on- and off-ramps in the second phase.
Under the recommended agreements, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority will pay for rebuilding Route 23 and widening it to accommodate additional traffic. The authority will shoulder half the cost for the ramps in the second phase, with the county and the Illinois Department of Transportation splitting the difference. The county will cover the $2.66 million in engineering costs.
The current schedule calls for the rebuild of Route 23 to be mostly done by the end of 2017, with work on the ramps and the unmanned tollbooths to start in 2018.
Marengo’s plan for the interchange, which is equidistant between O’Hare and Rockford airports and near rail access, is to create an industrial hub. An analysis released in June concluded that the interchange and the jobs that would come with the plan could mean between $538 million and more than $1.7 billion in economic impact, or between $697 million and $2.25 billion if the construction of the interchange and the industries are included.
The agreements will go through the Finance and Audit Committee on Thursday before an expected formal County Board vote Sept. 6.
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.