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Transit chief gives county leaders hope on Randall Road expansion
By Charles Keeshan | Daily Herald Staff

Congressman Don Manzullo, left, listens as U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood takes questions Friday following a discussion on Randall Road improvement projects at Moretti's Ristorante in Lake in the Hills.


Rick West | Staff Photographer

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Published: 11/13/2009 4:49 PM

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U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood didn't give McHenry County leaders the go-ahead Friday for their $85 million plan to widen Randall Road and significantly alter one of its most traveled intersections.

But you couldn't blame them for feeling optimistic about the plan's chances.

LaHood, visiting Lake in the Hills at the invitation of U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo, said Friday the proposal as it was detailed to him Friday is the kind of project he expects to be in the next federal highway bill.

"I think in the next (highway) reauthorization, it's very realistic that it's in there," LaHood said. "A lot of good things for it are in place."

LaHood, a former congressman from Peoria and the only Republican in President Barack Obama's cabinet, learned about the plan during a "Roadkill Lunch" sponsored by the McHenry County Road Warriors, a group of public and private interests lobbying state and federal leaders for more road funding.

The luncheon was attended by a Who's Who of southeast McHenry County leadership: State Rep. Mike Tryon, County Board Chairman Ken Koehler, Lake in the Hills Village President Ed Plaza, Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley and Marc Munaretto, chairman of the county board's finance committee, to name a few.

For them, the county's Randall Road plan was the main course.

The plan calls for widening Randall to three lanes in each direction for 3.5 miles through Algonquin, Lake in the Hills and Crystal Lake, from the Kane County line to Ackman Road. It also calls for the creation of an innovative and rare "continuous flow" intersection at the Algonquin Road crossing. The intersection alone is expected to cost about $40 million.

County Engineer Joseph Korpalski told LaHood that money won't be coming from the state, and the price tag is far too high for the county.

"Funding is needed in the next (federal) transportation bill," Korpalski said.

That bill will not be coming until late 2010, at the earliest. In June, LaHood asked Congress to postpone action on a long-term $400 billion to $500 billion transportation bill because of a lack of funding. Ultimately, he said Friday, the funding could come through additional tolls, public-private partnerships for road construction or a tax on miles driven.

LaHood could not make any promises about whether Randall would eventually be in the bill, but said the proposal has several things going for it, including wide support from leaders across the county.

"The idea of having all these people in agreement that Randall Road is the priority, that is important," he said.

Koehler said the county's focus on Randall is no coincidence, saying the project can bring the most benefit for the largest number of county residents.

"There are probably the greatest number of cars leaving and coming back to McHenry County through there on a daily basis," he said. "Even on Saturday it can be atrocious, so we do need the additional lanes.

"I'm very excited just by the fact (LaHood) is aware of our needs," Koehler added.