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Cost in the way of widening Wolf's Crossing Rd. : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Cost in the way of widening Wolf's Crossing Rd.
Local, state officials review options on how to pay for $37.8M project

by Tony Scott


Wolf's Crossing Road in Oswego from the U.S. Route 34/Ill. Route 71 intersection to U.S. Route 30 is in need of repair and widening, officials say, but there is only one thing getting in the project's way: its cost.

A group of local lawmakers, village, school and highway officials met Monday morning to talk about improvements to the road, which is currently a two-lane rural route that village officials say should be widened to handle the increasing traffic.

Village Administrator Steve Jones told the group that a 2012 cost estimate for widening the road, and improvements to the six intersections along the way, would cost nearly $37.8 million.

Approximately two-thirds of the road is in the village's jurisdiction, while one-third is in Oswego Township outside of municipal limits.

Kendall County Board members Scott Gryder and Lynn Cullick, both of Oswego, led the meeting, which included Oswego Village President Brian LeClercq, and representatives from the village, Oswego Township, Kendall County, Oswego School District 308, Oswego Police, and the City of Aurora. The meeting was held at Plank Junior High School, located on Wolf's Crossing Road.

State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, State Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood, and State Rep. John Anthony, R-Plainfield, also attended as did representatives from the offices of State Rep. Tom Cross, R-Oswego, State Rep. Kay Hatcher, R-Yorkville, State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, and State Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove.

Gryder, who is a former chairman of the village's plan commission, said there are "a number of developments that are either in the works or that have been in the process that are already approved" in addition to those already in existence on Wolf's Crossing. These developments are in addition to Oswego East High School, Plank Junior High School and Churchill Elementary School, located along the road.

Jones said the road is a "perfect storm." There is "too much traffic" on the road, which he said serves as a "cut-through" for motorists between Routes 34 and 30, and is impacted by daily school traffic.

There are also jurisdictional issues, Jones said, with the village and the township having responsibility for portions of the road.

"How do you go from a two-lane cross-section to something that deserves a five-lane cross-section, with turn lanes, curb-and-gutter?" Jones asked. "Difficult for a town or a village to take on that kind of improvement."

The road was last resurfaced in 2011, when the village used $550,000 in state grant proceeds from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Wolf's Crossing suffered another setback in April 2013 when heavy rains flooded a small creek east of U.S. Route 34-Ill. Route 71 intersection and washed out an embankment under the road's westbound lane, exposing a large natural gas main. The road was closed during the repairs from D Construction of Coal City, and was reopened in June.

Jones said village staff has discussed the federal- and state-funded surface transportation program (STP) funding, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program funds for intersection improvement, as well as highway safety monies. He said another source of revenue could be a state capital bill being worked on in Springfield.

"There are a lot of spinning plates here," Jones said. "This is the sort of improvement that has so many implications, so much cost that it's difficult for any single entity to make this happen."

Cullick noted that not only are the school district's two high schools connected by Wolf's Crossing Road, but brand new, teenage drivers are using the road.

"So there is a whole other element that exists when you add in those new drivers, and you add school buses," she said.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Matthew Wendt presented a forecast of future enrollment at District 308 schools. He said the firm the district used, RSP Associates, has historically had a 97 percent accuracy rate predicting enrollment five years out.

Wendt noted that, while Oswego High School will see an enrollment increase of 260 students from this current school year to the 2017 school year, Oswego East will see a projected increase of 738 students during that same time frame.

East's projected enrollment in 2017 will be 2,895 students, according to the RSP firm's numbers.

"Just at Oswego East High School, we're going to add over 700 students," he said. "What percent of 700 or what number of 700 do you believe will be behind the wheel of an automobile? And that does not include the additional staff at Oswego East High School. This is the point of why we wanted to call it to your attention."

Wendt said that, even during the recession and the slowdown in homebuilding, the district kept adding students. The district is the eighth largest in Illinois, he said.

"We continued to add, which made us an anomaly across the state of Illinois," he said.

LeClercq described the road as "outdated," and that it was built as a two-lane county road. He said he was grateful to the township for partnering with the village for the road's resurfacing in 2011.

LeClercq said he was hopeful that the project could be included in the state's capital plan. He said he'd like to know how much the village will need to contribute to the project's cost.

"We need to know what kind of check we'll need to write," he said.

William Wiett, chief development services officer at the City of Aurora, said the city has looked at future configurations of intersections along Route 30.

For example, the Wikaduke Trail, which is a connection of roads in Kane and eastern Kendall counties, will include an intersection at Route 30 with Eola Road.

That intersection will eliminate what Wiett called a "dangerous" intersection of Heggs Road and the highway, he said.

"We had always thought of minimizing Heggs in the future, and maximizing the connection at the Wikaduke Trail," Wiett said.

Ken Schroth, Aurora's public works director and city engineer, said city officials had met with Oswego officials about improvements to the Route 30 and Wolf's Crossing intersection. He said the state is already in phase one for Heggs and Route 30 improvements.

"Between the two jurisdictions, we'd rather see that funding spent between the new Wikaduke interchange or the Route 30 and Wolf's intersection," Schroth said.

Schroth said they are working with Oswego staff to get a meeting with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) regarding those intersections.

Holmes said she would talk to IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider about the Wolf's Crossing project.

Holmes said they should push for funding even without a capital bill.

"There have been some really good conversations lately about trying to get money that's coming in annually, that's guaranteed to be used solely for infrastructure improvements," she said. "So that we're not doing this, 'Oh gosh, we have to wait until we pass a capital bill.' We can have this ongoing, so then as we prioritize, it actually makes sense and we're not waiting until our bridges are literally falling apart or our infrastructure is crumbling."

Holmes said she's had some "good meetings" with officials and organizations such as the Operating Engineers union.

"That would be a huge benefit for all of these projects moving forward," she said.

Oswego Township Trustee Sid Simmons voiced skepticism as to whether money can be found, noting that all taxing bodies are watching their bottom lines.

"Nobody wants their taxes any higher, so definitely money is an issue," he said. "But so is transportation and safety. What's going to be our priority? It should be transportation and safety. But money talks."

At the conclusion of Monday's meeting, the group agreed to meet again in late June for an update on discussions with IDOT.

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