Federal, state and local officials, along with several dozen others gathered Monday morning on the edge of a new era in McHenry County.
With land grading already creating a massive corridor through the west side of Algonquin's downtown, the official groundbreaking ceremony was held near the Algonquin public works facility, and right on the edge of where a new bypass will soon create a whole new traffic dynamic in the village.
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The decades-in-the-making project was applauded by speakers including Sen. Dick Durbin, Congressman Don Manzullo, State Sen. Pam Althoff, Algonquin Village President John Schmitt and McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler. The first to be introduced, Durbin was quick to point out that it began with Manzullo.
"It's starts with an idea," Durbin said, "Then you have to build community support for it. And once you have that, you have to take this to the right people. The first person you took it to, the right person, was Congressman Don Manzullo."
The $33.3 million project includes the construction of just more than two miles of a four-lane highway that will alleviate congestion by allowing traffic to bypass the downtown area at Routes 31 and 62. It will begin at Route 31 and Huntington Drive just south of the downtown, swing west and go over Route 62 west of Route 31 before reconnecting with Route 31 at the north end of town. There will be a diamond interchange including four new bridges, retaining walls and noise abatement walls west of Route 31.
Because the project took so long to come to fruition, many people had a hand in making the project a reality. It was made clear by every speaker that it was an example of compromise and a common goal that eventually put the project into motion.
"I'm loving these speeches up here because you hear truly the collaboration that McHenry County is known for," Althoff said. "This project is older than my political career."
Downtown Algonquin resident Glenn Schilke, whose home is now safe from the wrecking ball along Route 31, was overjoyed at the sight of the project, standing along its edge and taking a couple of pictures to commemorate the day.
"I'm loving every minute of this," he said, "this is going to make downtown Algonquin back to downtown Algonquin. I really feel good about the whole situation."
Althoff also announced a resolution that has the support of the governor's office and the Illinois Department of Transportation to name the new Route 31 bridge over Route 62 the President John C. Schmitt Bridge.
"For once I'm speechless," Schmitt said. "This is such an important project to this area, to this whole region, and it took all of these people, everybody here, to get it done."