County reduces scope of Alden Road construction
The McHenry County Division of Transportation has significantly reduced plans for right-of-way acquisition for its proposed Alden Road construction project.
On April 10, MCDOT held a public hearing proposing a revised plan for a construction project along Alden Road, stretching from Charles Road north to Route 173. Perhaps most notable in the new plan is the planned land acquisition reductions now standing at only 1.15 acres. Original plans called for the acquisition of 43 acres. It, initially, was trimmed to 32 acres when a 2011 plan was proposed.
The road would be rebuilt, in large part, in accordance with the current right-of-way but with larger road shoulders.
“In order to reduce the right-of-way impacts along the project, the use of steeper and more shallow ditches with underdrain systems was used,” MCDOT planning documents stated.
The revision uses 3:1 foreslopes and backslopes — 3 feet horizontal for ever 1 foot vertical — rather than the 4:1 originally planned.
“The more shallow ditches allow the regraded ditch to match the existing ground sooner than previously presented,” the plan stated.
In some areas the ditch will be replaced with swales to further reduce impact. A swale is a low tract of land. When shallow swales are used instead of ditches, some water may encroach on the shoulder during large rainfalls, MCDOT stated.
The land acquisition is part of Phase II of the project. The current McHenry County Board-approved 5-year highway improvement program does not identify funding for Phase II, meaning reconstruction of the road is likely years away. The county estimated the cost to reconstruct the road at between $20 and $25 million and said the project would likely be completed in segments.
Alan Plane, who lives along Alden Road and is a member of the Alden Road Alliance, said while he is happy to see the reduced land acquisition, he still doesn’t see a need for 8-foot shoulders on each side of the road.
“[MCDOT is] very adamant about putting the 8-foot shoulders on the road,” Plane said. He added that he would like to see the incorporation of rumble strips as a safety addition rather than the widened shoulders.
“We’re taking [the revisions] with a grain of salt,” Plane said, noting that MCDOT has changed the plan often. He called MCDOT’s approach “long-winded and expensive.”
“Why did they have to start out with such a grand project only to scale it down to where it should be,” Plane asked, noting that every public hearing and meeting is costing the taxpayers money. “We’re a bit relieved that they brought right-of-way back to the original [footprint], but we’ll only believe it when we see it.”
Although the scope of the project has been revised the past few years, MCDOT maintains the road is in poor condition and that yearly resurfacing of the road will no longer be sufficient. The main issue with the road is that the sub-base — the load bearing layer of the pavement — has deteriorated since it was installed more than 50 years ago. Water and erosion have turned the sub-base “into mush,” according to Wally Dittrich, design manager for MCDOT, leaving “a bunch of pavement on substandard soil.”
In the past, he has likened the road to a bad roof. Sometimes replacing the shingles doesn’t work and replacing the plywood underneath is necessary, he said.