As the Route 31 western bypass in Algonquin nears completion, village officials are excited about the roadway's impact on downtown businesses and the potential for future development.
The $33.3 million project includes construction of more than two miles of a four-lane highway allowing traffic to bypass the downtown area at routes 31 and 62. Work is expected to be completed by mid-August.
"This is the biggest infrastructure improvement in McHenry County ever," Algonquin Village President John Schmitt said of the bridge that bears his name.
The bypass is expected to relieve regional traffic congestion and spur economic development in Algonquin's Old Town Historic District.
Schmitt said the overpass will speed up the east-west traffic flow on Route 62 and allow north-south traffic on Route 31 to continue uninterrupted.
"It will open up Algonquin downtown to two big corridors of transportation," he added.
Sen. Dick Durbin and state, county and local leaders recently dedicated the bridge, funded primarily through federal and state sources.
"I'm happy to say that McHenry County motorists will now experience relief from the awful gridlock that has plagued downtown Algonquin for decades," Durbin said in a news release.
The bypass begins at Route 31 and Huntington Drive just south of the downtown, swings west and goes 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.
Main Street, from Huntington Drive north to Greenwood Court, will be turned into a smaller road to offer a pedestrian-friendly and commercial area.
Once the bypass is completed, the Illinois Department of Transportation will transfer jurisdiction of Route 31 through Algonquin to the village.
"We will then be able to manage it and improve it for the good of our businesses on Main Street," Schmitt said. "We can go back to diagonal parking for our businesses."
Village officials spent a year developing a Downtown Planning Study that calls for a more pedestrian-friendly and traditional commercial corridor on Main Street.
It identifies several sites for redevelopment and estimates the village spending $5 million to $7 million for streetscape improvements, officials said.
"It will help our businesses greatly, and it will give developers impetus to build new structures in downtown," Schmitt said. "We are trying to create a development-friendly environment."
One such redevelopment project -- Riverside Plaza, which includes 63 luxury apartments, 9,600 square feet of retail space at ground level and parking -- is set to open next month at the corner of routes 31 and 62.
The village also is developing its first special taxing district for the downtown area to spur redevelopment and fund infrastructure improvements.
Officials project making $75 million worth of public/private improvements in a draft tax increment financing district plan.
A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Ganek Municipal Center, 2200 Harnish Drive.