McHenry County Board gets data, pleas at Randall Road workshop

WOODSTOCK – McHenry County Board members got an earful during their three-hour workshop on the long-planned Randall Road improvement project.

Much of it came in the form of presentations from county staff and consultants regarding the need to widen the road and improve its intersection with Algonquin Road. Some of it was from local political and business officials pleading with them not to put the brakes on the $97 million project after a decade of planning.

County Board Chairman Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, ended Friday’s Committee of the Whole with the decision that the board has to make next – whether to allocate the money for buying the needed land, which has been stuck in committee.

“The next question is, do we buy the land we need to buy in order to improve this transportation corridor?” Gottemoller said.

A resolution to allocate $10 million toward land acquisition has been in limbo in the board’s Transportation and Finance and Audit committees since April, and has not been brought to the floor for a vote.

Although the Randall Road plan has been moving forward for years, a growing faction of board members wants the project to be scuttled altogether, questioning its cost, its necessity, or both.

Plans call for the project 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, and would improve its intersection with Algonquin Road by adding two more turn lanes and eliminating some entry points.

The second phase would widen Randall Road to six lanes from Polaris Drive north to Ackman Road.

The $65.7 million price tag for the first phase could be lessened by $10.6 million through federal funds aimed at improving air quality and reducing traffic congestion, which improving the intersection would do, said Brian Fairwood, principal for TranSystems, the Schaumburg firm hired by the County Board to design the project.

The Randall/Algonquin intersection has no dedicated right turn lane from northbound Randall Road onto eastbound Algonquin and only one left turn lane on Randall Road in either direction, while intersections to the north and south on Randall Road have more, which Fairwood said has created a bottleneck.

The current design plan of three turn lanes from Algonquin onto Randall, two turn lanes from Randall onto Algonquin and a dedicated right turn lane for all directions will cut wait times in half at the intersection, he said. It also will cut average Randall Road travel time on that stretch from 5.3 minutes to 2.7 minutes, he said.

Local officials again made their case to the County Board that the project is necessary to relieve congestion in a business corridor that generates $2.7 million in sales tax revenue a year for county government and $9.5 million a year for Algonquin and Lake in the Hills.

Algonquin Village President John Schmitt called the impasse and what he called a lack of planning for the future “disheartening.” He said Algonquin residents take side roads because of the congestion, and only take Randall Road if they’re traveling out of the area.

“Without [the project], McHenry County will never reach its potential. The planning has been done, and has to be executed for the communities, the region and this county,” Schmitt said.

Lake in the Hills Village President Paul Mulcahy called the current plan “a plan that will work,” and expressed “a great deal of frustration” with the impasse and second thoughts after years of work.

“This is a solution that works. To quibble about what may or may not be in the plan when this one works is stalling. It’s wasting everyone’s time,” Mulcahy said.

The local governments were joined by speakers from the McHenry County Council of Governments and the McHenry County Economic Development Corp., both of which also support the project.

Comments from some of the 17 County Board members who attended the workshop reflected the split. Robert Nowak, R-Lake in the Hills, drives the area frequently and supports the project.

“I’d like to see this thing move forward and get this going. That’s my vote,” he said.

But member Michael Rein, R-Woodstock, remained steadfast in his opposition in remarks read by Diane Evertsen, R-Harvard – Rein was ill and could not make the meeting.

“As it is being presented now, I am 100 percent opposed to this project,” Rein wrote.

Friday’s presentation will be given again to the Transportation Committee, where the resolution to buy right-of-way now sits, and to the Finance and Audit Committee, Gottemoller said.

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