The Illinois Department of Transportation will seek approval for five roundabout intersections in Woodstock when its plans for redeveloping Route 47 are presented at a public hearing next year.
The roundabouts are part of a $75 million project which was detailed for local business owners at a meeting hosted by IDOT officials at the Woodstock Public Library Dec. 2.
“This [highway] has outlived its usefulness and is highly congested,” said Steve Schilke, IDOT project engineer.
The construction project would completely redesign about 4.5 miles of Route 47, stretching through the heart of Woodstock from Highway 14 to Charles Road. In addition to roundabouts replacing stop lights or signs at Lake Avenue, McConnell Road, Irving Avenue/Judd Street, Ware Road and Charles Road, the intersection of St. John’s Road and Route 47 would receive a stop light.
The plans also call for the highway to be widened to two lanes in each direction, for a hard median to replace the road’s two-way turn lanes and for new sidewalks and a bicycle path to run alongside Route 47.
In order to expand the road, the state would have to obtain — either by mutual agreement or eminent domain — private property along Route 47, including 11 buildings and residences.
IDOT officials said the plans will improve safety along the highway and ease traffic congestion. Other proposals, including one for a Route 47 bypass, were dismissed because IDOT studies showed they wouldn’t have a significant impact on traffic.
“Ultimately, what it resulted in was that we were not able to remove enough traffic from Route 47,” Schilke said.
Some business owners expressed concerns over the plans. In addition to worries over losing all or part of their properties, others said they feared the plans for a median would limit access for their customers.
“I’m unhappy. It’s going to reduce access to the local businesses in our community, and that’s going to cause a reduction in property values, sales tax revenue and property tax revenue,” said John Stassen, whose business, Stassen Insurance Agency, is located along Route 47 at 1662 S. Eastwood Drive.
Stassen thinks the project is “overreaching” and believes more minor changes to the highway could fix its safety and congestion problems.
“It’s not been done in other communities this way,” Stassen said. “Go into Crystal Lake, go into McHenry. You’ll not see this.”
Schilke said while IDOT engineers will recommend moving forward with the plans presented Dec. 2, the proposal could change in response to input from residents and business owners. A public hearing on the project is expected to take place in spring 2017.
“We will revise it and revise it again,” Schilke said.
Construction on Route 47 is expected to take about two years to complete. The project, which will be paid for with state and federal transportation funds, is still in its first phase. Schilke said it could take six to 12 years before the project is completed.