It could take more than a decade before crews start work on a multimillion dollar project to widen Route 47, but stakeholders already are asking questions of the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Dozens of Woodstock residents and business owners crowded into a Feb. 21 meeting of the Woodstock City Council to hear IDOT’s plans for the $76 million project, which will expand Route 47 to four lanes from Charles Road to Highway 14, add a hard median and bring five roundabouts to various intersections along the route.
People asked about access for school buses, the practicality of roundabouts and how property acquisitions by the state might impact the city’s zoning requirements.
John Stassen, president of Stassen Insurance Agency, 1662 S. Eastwood Drive, said he’s especially concerned about the hard median, which he fears will cut off access for many businesses’ customers.
“I’m not a fan of someone leaving a business, having to travel in the wrong direction and then having to make a U-turn,” Stassen said. Still, he added he’s heartened by the accommodations IDOT representatives have made in response to business owners’ concerns, including adding more access points through the hard median.
“Moving forward, if they continue to do so, it will be positive for the community,” Stassen said.
Steven Schilke, an IDOT representative, said it likely will be eight to 12 years before the project is funded and shovel-ready. As for IDOT’s design, he said hard medians and roundabouts reduce traffic accidents. The project also calls for a bicycle path and more sidewalks.
“It’s a safer alternative,” Schilke said.
According to IDOT, Route 47 in Woodstock sees about 20,000 cars a day, a total which is expected to climb to 30,000 by 2040.
Krista Coltrin, the city of Woodstock’s economic development coordinator, said she and other staff at City Hall have been working to contact every business owner and resident along Woodstock’s Route 47 corridor so they can be provided with periodic updates on the project.
IDOT representatives have said in the past the project will require the demolition of 10 businesses and homes, but Coltrin said those plans haven’t been finalized.
“What we initially thought would be acquisitions, they are revising the layouts to take as few properties as possible,” Coltrin said. “Some that were shown as complete acquisitions now are not.”
The city expects IDOT to release updated designs within the next month or so, she added.
Coltrin asks property owners along the project route who have not heard from a city representative to call City Hall at 815-338-4300.
“I certainly hope that our public understands that the city realizes that there will be hardships for quite a lot of people,” Coltrin said. “That’s one of the reasons that working on this project so far in advance is so important.”