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Mercyhealth, Sage projects could bring traffic changes to Route 31, Three Oaks Road

Traffic study predicts increases to intersection traffic

Traffic waits at the light Friday at the intersection of Three Oaks Road and Route 31 in Crystal Lake. The Sage Products expansion in Cary and the future Mercyhealth medical site are expected to add traffic at the intersection.
Traffic waits at the light Friday at the intersection of Three Oaks Road and Route 31 in Crystal Lake. The Sage Products expansion in Cary and the future Mercyhealth medical site are expected to add traffic at the intersection.

It's not unusual to see traffic backing up at Route 31 and Three Oaks Road during rush hour.

And with one phase of Sage Products' expansion wrapping up and Mercyhealth's plans for a 13-bed hospital andmedical office facility moving forward at the intersection, traffic could get worse in Cary and Crystal Lake.

Mercyhealth's proposed facility is slated for 18 acres at the southeast corner of the aforementioned intersection in Crystal Lake. It could bring a 3.5 percent increase in traffic – from 4,100 cars a day to 4,240 – to the intersection, according to a traffic study by consulting firm Kimley-Horn.

Mercyhealth detailed its plan for the site in front of the Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning Commission and city staff Wednesday night.

The study recommends that a left-turn lane be added to westbound Three Oaks Road where it meets Route 31, and a right-turn lane be added to northbound Route 31 where it meets Three Oaks Road.

The study, presented by Crystal Lake Director of Public Works Michael Magnuson, did not include forecasted traffic increases from the Sage property expansion. Magnuson expressed concern about adding traffic to several deficient intersections in the area, particularly Route 31 and Three Oaks Road.

Route 31 is in the Illinois Department of Transportation’s jurisdiction. IDOT's consultant studies unit head, Kimberly Murphy, said Thursday that typically the developer of a project pays for road improvements that coincide with their respective project.

The city of Crystal Lake has long thought of trying to connect Tek Drive on the west side of Route 31 to Raymond Drive on the east side of Route 31. Murphy noted that there are certain requirements – such as traffic counts and distance to other signals – that a road needs to meet in order to qualify for a new traffic signal.

“I’m not sure we’d put a signal there,” Murphy said of the Tek Drive-Raymond Drive idea.

City staff and the commission spoke of making sure Mercyhealth pays its fair share in road improvements to the area. Commissioners expressed a desire to work with Cary and McHenry County on improvements to Three Oaks Road. There are parcels in the area that fall into the jurisdiction of each municipality.

Cary Mayor Mark Kownick said in a letter addressed to Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Tom Hayden that the village of Cary is highly supportive of the Mercyhealth project, if some offside improvements are considered.

“If approved by the city of Crystal Lake, it is presumed that the project would include the necessary infrastructure improvements that are vital to accommodate the significant amount of projected medical service, outpatient and emergency room visits that this new facility would generate,” Kownick wrote.

Improvements to the Route 31 and Three Oaks Road intersection and the elimination of short gaps that exist in the bike and pedestrian paths along Three Oaks Route and Route 31 should be considered, Kownick wrote.

Expansion of the Sage Products facility in Cary, 3909 Three Oaks Road, is moving along, Kownick told the Northwest Herald.

Sage, a maker of medical devices, bought 27 acres to the east of its existing property for about $3.3 million in December 2016, records show. Construction started in the spring on a 200,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center that is adding about 50 jobs to the 850 the company already has at the site.

“They’re ahead of schedule,” Kownick said. “They’re filling the interior of the building. The exterior is done.”

That’s just phase one of the project. The second phase would bring another 610,000 square feet of warehouse, manufacturing, office and parking space by 2021. That expansion is expected to add about 300 jobs, village officials have said.

“[Sage] should be coming to us for another building permit to continue with expansion,” Kownick said.

The expansions will bring more traffic – in the form of new employees and additional semitrailers – to both Three Oaks Road and Route 31, which intersect about three-quarters of a mile to the west. The intersection already suffers from “stacking” of cars during rush hour.

While Sage is much closer to being fully operational in its added space, the Mercyhealth project still is in the preliminary stage and likely will go before the Crystal Lake City Council on Jan. 16.

The Rockford-based health system still will have to get final approvals at some point after that.

Communications managers for Sage did not return calls seeking comment.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect where Mercyhealth is based.

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