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Our View: Woodstock Route 47 widening is vital

Published: Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017 12:35 p.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017 12:35 p.m. CDT

While we understand there are concerns with a $78 million plan to widen Route 47 through Woodstock, this project needs to happen, and it should have happened a long time ago.

The Illinois Department of Transportation plans to widen about 5 miles along Route 47 between Charles Road and Route 14 to allow for two lanes of traffic in each direction, separated by a raised curb median. IDOT is proposing five roundabouts at intersections along Route 47. There also are plans for sidewalk and bicycle path improvements, as the road is not pedestrian-friendly now.

Anyone who traverses this part of McHenry County with any regularity knows the traffic tie-ups along Route 47 between Route 14 and Route 120 can be horrific at certain times a day, whether it’s traffic simply trying to get around Woodstock or heading north toward Lake Geneva in the summer.

Traffic issues there are far more substantial, for example, than on the recently completed widening of Route 14 between Crystal Lake and Woodstock. We’re not certain the criteria that IDOT uses to prioritize projects, but we know what we see through our windshields every day.

We also know the longstanding and expensive obstacle to widening Route 47 through the heart of Woodstock is at the site of the Union Pacific Railroad bridge near the heart of town and just north of Lake Street. That bridge will need to be redone to accommodate four lanes.

Of course businesses along Route 47, which represent the bulk of Woodstock businesses, are concerned about how an estimated two-year construction project will affect their business, which it certainly will. Some of those businesses already are affected by people who avoid the congested stretch of road. There also are concerns from residential homeowners north of Route 120.

We understand the frustration, but the biggest one is it’s likely another 10 years before a shovel even goes into the ground on this project. The only good thing about that delay is it leaves plenty of time for Woodstock officials, business owners and residents to address concerns.

They won’t have to look far for suggestions. Just ask Huntley officials a few miles south how they handled the Route 47 widening project there, and while you’re driving through take a look at the business expansion, grocery, restaurant and retail development that’s taken place, offering more options for Huntley residents.

The Route 47 widening project needs to be done right, but it absolutely needs to be done sooner rather than later.

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