Committee OKs $15.9 million to move Randall Road improvements along

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board is getting ready to plop down almost $15.9 million to design and buy the land needed for the Randall Road widening project.

In three separate votes Wednesday morning, its Transportation Committee recommended approval for spending up to $9.1 million for the design, $1.75 million for the company to negotiate buying the needed right-of-way, and up to $5 million to cover the land purchases themselves.

The money will come from the county’s state and local motor fuel tax, with just under $2.8 million for the design coming from the county’s share of the Regional Transportation Authority sales tax.

The project, which the county’s latest five-year highway improvement plan prices at $115 million, will add capacity and improve about 3.5 miles of the major commercial thoroughfare from Ackman Road through Lake in the Hills to County Line Road at the Algonquin Commons shopping center in Algonquin.

Plans call for widening the entire stretch to three lanes in each direction, building dual left-turn lanes and exclusive right-turn lanes at major signal intersections.

The most controversial component of the improvements by far is the proposal to build a continuous-flow intersection at Randall and Algonquin roads at the border of the two municipalities.

The County Board is expected to vote on the expenditures at its Feb. 4 meeting. The county’s five-year plan anticipates construction to start in 2016 at the earliest.

Both village presidents attended the meeting to offer their input. While Algonquin’s government seems more receptive to the overall project, the position of Lake in the Hills is that the project is overkill.

“Algonquin’s and Lake in the Hills’ economic engines are on Randall Road. When I said that people won’t go down Randall Road on a Saturday [because of congestion], I saw heads nod up and down, because that is a fact,” Algonquin Village President John Schmitt said after the vote.

But Lake in the Hills Village President Paul Mulcahy stated his village board’s stance – while improvements are needed to Randall Road, the project scope goes too far and will hurt access to local business.

Mulcahy said the village questions the population projections from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning that are being cited to justify the project.

“We’ve had doubts from the beginning whether the traffic and population projections they based the need for all the improvements on are valid, especially with the economy and the collapse of the housing boom,” Mulcahy said Wednesday afternoon.

Lake in the Hills’ government vehemently opposes to the idea of a continuous-flow intersection at Randall and Algonquin roads.

At a continuous-flow intersection, left-turning vehicles start turning several hundred feet before the main intersection at a crossover intersection. They head into separate lanes that allow them to turn left at the same time that other vehicles are going straight.

Such an intersection would close many of the Randall Road access points to businesses near the intersection – Lake in the Hills estimates that its Randall Road businesses account for between 70 and 80 percent of its retail sales tax revenue.

While the decision is not final on whether to go with a continuous-flow intersection, it was announced last November that $10.6 million in federal funding, or about 80 percent of the cost, has been pledged if a CFI is chosen.

The jobs of drawing up the engineering and obtaining the right-of-way will go to Schaumburg-based TranSystems and Mathewson Right Of Way Company. The Transportation Committee selected them for the jobs at prior meetings.

The vote to approve the engineering contract passed the committee on a 6-1 vote with member Diane Evertsen, R-Harvard, voting no. The other two votes to authorize spending for right-of-way acquisition passed unanimously.