Barrington Hills envisions Algonquin Road as a scenic parkway
With the widening of Algonquin Road through his town seemingly inevitable, Barrington Hills Village President Martin McLaughlin says he and other officials are pushing for it to be done as a scenic parkway rather than a typical four-lane state highway.
McLaughlin said he envisions Algonquin Road becoming Barrington Hills' smaller-scale version of the George Washington Memorial Parkway near the nation's capital or Merritt Parkway in Fairfield County, Connecticut. The section of Algonquin Road in question cuts through Cook County's Spring Lake Forest Preserve from Dundee Road west to Route 25 and is a key east-west artery between the Northwest suburbs and the northern Fox Valley.
"It should kind of honor the open space, natural setting that the Cook County Forest Preserve is trying to maintain and what we're trying to maintain in our community," McLaughlin said of the widening planned by the Illinois Department of Transportation. "That's what we'd like to see."
IDOT has yet to secure funding for the proposed Algonquin Road expansion, but planning is well underway. Since the process began in late 2017, IDOT has decided to explore two widening alternatives, as well as choosing to keep the thoroughfare as is with just routine maintenance.
One option calls for two lanes in each direction separated by a concrete median and barrier with inside and outside shoulders. The other possibility is two lanes on both sides with a raised grass median, but no shoulders.
IDOT officials said crash data from 2010 through 2016 illustrates why the Barrington Hills stretch of Algonquin should be upgraded. There were 620 crashes with 136 injuries in that stretch, with 45 percent of those being rear-end collisions.
Representatives of IDOT and Barrington Hills officials have been meeting about the Algonquin Road project, which could be several years away. At a recent open house for the proposal at Barrington Park District headquarters, IDOT consultant studies unit head Kimberly Murphy said the agency is open to Barrington Hills' scenic parkway concept.
"I have a lot of ideas in my head on how it could look," Murphy said. "You know, some smaller trees that fit into the context of the surroundings. Some prairie grasses, maybe. We have landscape architects on staff that will work in the next phase of the project, who will work with the village to determine something that it could maintain in perpetuity."
McLaughlin said it's likely some Barrington-area volunteer organizations involved with nature would be willing to sponsor sections of the road to assure upkeep of the plantings.
Overseen by the National Park Service, the George Washington Memorial Parkway along the Potomac River in Virginia has associated trails and is billed as a scenic place to play and rest around Washington, D.C. Merritt Parkway is a National Scenic Byway created in the 1930s to relieve traffic congestion in southwestern Connecticut,
Barrington Hills Trustee Brian Cecola, chairman of the village board's road and bridge committee, has been part of the meetings with IDOT. He said now is the time to make it known the village doesn't want a typical paved thoroughfare.
"That's our main goal, to not make it look like a highway but a nice place to drive and see some green and so forth and not just all concrete," Cecola said.
IDOT has eliminated the idea of installing traffic signals at intersections with Bateman and Old Sutton roads, saying an engineering study of traffic conditions, pedestrian characteristics and other criteria found they were not justified.
Cecola said IDOT has been receptive not only to the parkway suggestion from Barrington Hills, but also a request for a bicycle, pedestrian and bridal underpass connecting both sides of Spring Lake Forest Preserve.
Traffic counts for the area of Algonquin Road that would be widened have been collected on five sections. Toward the east near Dundee Road, there are 26,700 daily vehicle trips and 23,700 on the west closest to Route 25, according to IDOT's most recent data.