McHenry County Board again moves forward with Woodstock roundabout proposal

WOODSTOCK – A proposal to build a roundabout at an accident-prone intersection north of town again is moving to bid after the McHenry County Board freed it from a yearlong legislative traffic jam.

Board members voted last week, 20-4, to advertise for bids to replace the two-way stop at Charles and Raffel roads with a roundabout.

The County Board last April was poised to approve a $2.6 million bid, but at the last minute sent it back to a Transportation Committee that had struggled with the concept.

The makeup of the County Board and the committee have changed since the November election.

Like last year, the main opponent of building the roundabout was board member Michael Walkup, R-Crystal Lake, who said cheaper alternatives such as lowering the speed limit and enforcing it with a sheriff’s deputy first should be tried.

His main point of opposition in 2016 was that Woodstock Community Unit School District 200, which has Woodstock North High School and its transportation center nearby, should be willing to absorb some of the cost.

“I think we could probably fix everything at this point for a few hundred bucks if we lower the speed limit,” Walkup said.

A roundabout, a common sight on roads in Europe, is a circular intersection that supporters say is a safer alternative to intersections. Because there is only one-way movement throughout the roundabout – cars travel counterclockwise until they find their turn – they all but eliminate the possibility of head-on and right-angle collisions.

They also are cheaper to build than signal intersections – the county’s estimate for a signal intersection at Charles and Raffel roads came in at $3.6 million.

Improving the intersection has been on the county’s five-year highway improvement plan since 2009. It is in the top 5 percent of all county intersections under local control when it comes to the severity of accidents, according to county records.

The intersection gets about 16,000 vehicles a day, according to traffic counts made in 2012, when the project started being prioritized.

Supporters of bidding the project included member James Kearns, R-Huntley, who said low prices and companies hungry for business will make for “extremely competitive” bids. New Transportation Committee Chairman Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, also supported moving forward with the roundabout.

“It is cheaper and safer to build a roundabout than a stoplight. Period,” Gottemoller said.

Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager and Highway Commissioner Don Goad of Greenwood Township, where the intersection is located, have publicly supported replacing the intersection with a roundabout.

The first roundabout in McHenry County opened in 2014 in Johnsburg.

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