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Marengo interchange on Interstate 90 to open Dec. 23, officials say

The Interstate 90 interchange at Route 23 is set to open to traffic Dec. 23, which local officials said will spur economic development in the area.

This will be the first interchange in McHenry County, and it is projected to have 4,800 vehicles cross it daily, said Jose Alvarez, executive director of the Illinois Tollway, speaking at an event Tuesday about the opening. The Huntley interchange, at Route 47, is in Kane County.

An intergovernmental agreement between the Illinois Tollway, Illinois Department of Transportation, McHenry County and Marengo split the cost of construction, so 50% of costs came from the Illinois Tollway, 25% came from IDOT and 25% were from the county and Marengo.

In total, the project cost $33.4 million. The Illinois Tollway said that in conjunction with the project, there will be local road improvements, including the construction of a roundabout intersection at Illinois Route 23 and Harmony Road, which will be completed in 2020.

Alvarez said the project is part of the agency's 15-year, $14 billion capital program. The money to pay for the project came from tolls, he said.

McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said with the direct access the city now has to I-90, the interchange will become a "linchpin" for a manufacturing hub, which could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and create thousands of "good-paying jobs."

This sentiment was echoed by Marengo Mayor John Koziol, who said the biggest benefit the interchange will bring to the city is the opportunity for new industrial and manufacturing jobs.

"We're not doing this to be a giant retail corridor – this is going to be used for an industrial manufacturing corridor," he said. "The main focus of this whole thing is jobs, getting jobs out here, which will then in turn increase the size of the city."

"We're just trying to let everyone know that we are open, we're open to talk, we're open to business," Koziol said.

Although the project first came to light about 20 years ago, it fell through but was brought back again about seven to 10 years ago, Koziol said.

Marengo City Administrator Josh Blakemore said the city kicked in around half a million dollars for its portion of the funding. The local portion of the funding was primarily led by McHenry County, he added.

Initial discussion about the interchange started as the city began to expand its facility plan to that interchange area, Blakemore said. Then, during the past five to 10 years, annexations into the city have occurred down there, he said.

Blakemore said it was after the tollway announced its expansion plan as part of its capital improvement project that the city approached them to discuss the interchange.

"This is a project based off of the potential for development in the area for McHenry County," Blakemore said.

Koziol said the reason the construction of the interchange took this long to come to fruition was because a lot of land acquisition had to take place, along with obtaining agreements set up between IDOT, the Illinois Tollway, McHenry County and the city.

"[These] very large agencies have had to get together now and come to an agreement on how this is going to be done," he said. "It just takes time."

Once construction was approved, Koziol said it took about a year to finish the interchange.

Although the interchange was initially supposed to open Oct. 31, a "pretty wet summer" caused some delays in construction, Blakemore said.

The interchange will be named after McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Keltner, who died in the line of duty earlier this year in Rockford, after a resolution introduced by Rep. Steve Reick, R-Woodstock, was adopted by the Illinois legislature.

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