Randall Road project heads to McHenry County Board with conflicting committee votes

Finance committee votes yes a week after Transportation voted no

WOODSTOCK – The fate of the long-planned Randall Road widening project will go to the full McHenry County Board on split recommendations from two committees.

Its Finance and Audit Committee voted Thursday, 4-2, in favor of allocating an additional $10 million to acquire the needed right of way to widen the busy corridor and improve its congested intersection with Algonquin Road. But its Transportation Committee last week, also on a 4-2 margin, voted against the recommendation.

A July 5 vote by the County Board will decide the future of the project, with a vote against buying the land effectively killing it. And members must weigh the thumbs-down recommendation from the committee that oversees road projects versus the thumbs-up from the committee in charge of the county government’s checkbook.

The project, which has been talked over thoroughly in recent months, did not get much discussion before Thursday's vote, said Chairman Mike Skala, R-Huntley. Transportation did not have any discussion at all before its June 15 vote.

“I feel like the people who were on Finance felt the project was worth the $10 million to continue to try and acquire the land in order to build the project,” Skala said.

Both committee votes freed up a political logjam that occurred as a growing number of County Board members have questioned the need for the project, or questioned the return on the investment for its price tag, which for both phases combined is estimated at $97 million. Transportation first voted in April against allocating the money, but Finance did not vote on it and instead sent it back to Transportation, where it remained until this month.

Board members are not voting on the overall project, but rather on moving the $65.7 million first phase forward. First-phase plans call for widening Randall Road to six lanes from Harnish Drive in Algonquin north to Polaris Drive in Lake in the Hills, and improving its busy intersection with Algonquin Road by adding more turn lanes and eliminating some entry points. The plan would add a second left-turn lane on Randall Road and a third on Algonquin Road.

With $9 million already spent and $10.6 million pledged by the federal government, the remaining price tag for the first phase is closer to $46.1 million. The second phase would widen the road to six lanes from Polaris Drive north to Ackman Road.

While the project has been on the County Board’s list of road improvements since 2002, and feasibility studies began shortly thereafter, a faction of board members supports scuttling it altogether. The opposition has frustrated the leaders of Algonquin and Lake in the Hills, who have long pushed for a fix to ease congestion and preserve what they call an economic engine that provides jobs and pumps millions in property and sales taxes into local government coffers.

Finance Committee member Chuck Wheeler, R-McHenry, cited his skepticism of the actual cost of acquiring the right of way as one of many reasons he voted no Thursday. He also opposes the triple-left-lane concept and questions what the construction could do to local businesses.

“I want to be sure that [right of way acquisition] is actually going to come within that $10 million figure. I’m not even sure, if it does, that I’ll be voting in favor of this,” Wheeler said.

How they voted

The McHenry County Board Finance and Audit Committee voted Thursday, 4-2, to recommend allocating $10 million toward acquiring the land needed for the Randall Road improvement project.

Voting yes were Chairman Mike Skala, R-Huntley, James Heisler, R-Crystal Lake, Yvonne Barnes, R-Cary, and Mary McCann, R-Woodstock. Members Larry Smith, R-Harvard, and Chuck Wheeler, R-McHenry, voted no. Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry, was absent.

The vote comes a week after the Transportation Committee voted, 4-2, against the recommendation.

What’s next

The County Board will vote on the measure at its next meeting July 5.