Project Description ^top
McHenry County Division of Transportation initiated a US 12 Bypass Feasibility Study to provide preliminary engineering and planning services for a bypass of Richmond. The purpose of the study was to determine a preferred method to improve local and regional transportation in northeast McHenry County, between US 12 in Wisconsin and the primary arterials south of Richmond - US 12 and IL 31. US 12 is part of a regional transportation route that connects suburban northeastern Illinois with travel destinations in Southern Wisconsin.
The northern terminus of the study is US 12 in Wisconsin, a four-lane divided roadway built to rural interstate standards. US 12 is part of the planned regional highway system that provides access between destinations in southeastern Wisconsin and suburban McHenry and Lake Counties. The southern terminus of the bypass study area is the convergence of two regional arterials, the intersection of US 12 and IL 31. This is a logical point to divert long-distance through traffic to a bypass around the congested central business district of Richmond.
Because of the manner in which roads were originally developed, radiating spoke-like from Chicago and Richmond’s distance from Chicago (approximate 60 miles), US 12 serves as a primary route for travel to this area of Wisconsin. Few other north-south arterial roads can service the regional traffic demand. While congestion is a problem on US 12 during the week, it is especially problematic during weekends when traffic is often gridlocked. In addition, the anticipated community growth will put additional pressure on local and regional roadways. No other alternative transportation systems, such as bus routes or train routes, adequately serve regional transportation needs.
In 1999, recognizing roadway capacity deficiencies and regional transportation needs, IDOT initiated a study to widen US 12 to a three-lane roadway from IL 31 to the Wisconsin state line. Due to community objections and physical constraints of the US 12 right-of-way, it was determined that another solution was needed. The strong preference expressed by Village officials and community residents was for a Richmond bypass.
A US 12 bypass would address existing system capacity, future local transportation needs, regional travel patterns, and system linkages. At the same time, it is extremely important to include efforts to preserve the economic vitality of the downtown area and promote tourism traffic to continue to travel through downtown Richmond rather than use the bypass.
While Richmond is currently a small village, rapid change is expected to significantly affect it over the next 20 years. By 2030, the population is projected to increase from 1,100 to over 15,000 people. Today, developments that are in the planning and review process, would add over 7,000 new residents. If right-of-way is not preserved now for a bypass, the opportunity to plan and construct one later may be lost.
As stated, the Village is poised for rapid growth. Expansion is needed since the current conditions limit potential bypass alignments. The built environment, existing land uses, planned developments, and natural resources, all pose constraints to the development of a bypass corridor. These constraints were identified, mapped, and analyzed to determine potential bypass corridor alignments. This analysis showed that there are three zones with distinct constraints: a central, east and west zone.
The West Zone is predominately agricultural and open space. Its greatest obstacles for potential bypass corridors are natural areas. There are large wetlands and flood zones that support sensitive habitats. Because the zone is largely undeveloped, this zone poses few potential commercial or residential displacements.
The Central Zone includes the downtown area and is the most developed. The existing US 12 right-of-way is too narrow to both widen to Strategic Regional Arterial (SRA) standards and preserve the historic downtown character and elements that are essential to preservation of the economic base of the community.
The East Zone is an emerging suburban area with scattered residential and commercial development. Its greatest obstacles are planned developments, existing neighborhoods, and Elizabeth Lake. Developers are actively annexing, subdividing, and developing land in this zone.
Elizabeth Lake is a both physical barrier and sensitive environmental area.
Corridor Development ^top
Bypass corridors were identified by a variety of efforts: the Urban Land Institute study process to create a Richmond Vision Plan, public and technical advisory group meetings and the consultant team.
Bypass corridors were developed with consideration of environmental constraints, impacts on the built environment, local and regional plans, and the goals of the study. Numerous potential bypass corridors and a no-build option were identified for analysis.
These corridors are:
- Keystone Road Corridor
- FAP 420 Corridor
- Solon Mills Corridor
- Railroad Corridor
- Couplet Corridor
- Near East Corridor
- Far East Corridor
Additional corridors have been developed based on stakeholder input and agency imput. These include:
- Near West Corridor
- North Solon Corridor
- Hunt Club Corridor
- Solon Mills East Corridor
- Existing US Route 12 Corridor
Corridor Descriptions ^top
The seven initial corridors were analyzed and compared based on their constraints and impacts on the Village. The following is a brief explanation of constraints for each corridor.
The Keystone Corridor uses portions of the existing Keystone Road alignment and has relatively few significant environmental impacts. However, it is relatively costly due to its length and right-of-way acquisition. It will take the greatest amount of agricultural land out of production and affect numerous farms. The northern extension of Keystone terminates in the center of Genoa City, Wisconsin, essentially forcing the alignment to swing back east and use of a portion of the FAP 420 alignment. If constructed on the same alignment as Keystone Road, it would remove Keystone, an important north-south road, from the local transportation network.
FAP 420 Corridor
The FAP 420 Corridor utilizes a significant portion of the right-of-way corridor purchased by the Illinois Department of Transportation in the 1960’s for a highway. The FAP 420 Corridor has relatively few impacts on the environment or existing homes and businesses except wetlands at the northern end. Because most of the right-of-way is owned by IDOT, the land has been preserved from development. In addition, it is the least costly bypass option to develop.
Solon Mills Corridor
The Solon Mills Corridor diverts traffic from US 12 well before Richmond is reached, thereby functioning well as a bypass. However, it will likely remove desirable tourism traffic for downtown Richmond. It has significant topographic and environmental barriers and requires the removal of several homes and businesses. It is a long corridor that requires numerous structures, including two crossings of the Nippersink Creek. It merges within the FAP 420 Corridor north of Tryon Grove Road.
The Railroad Corridor creates a bypass parallel to an existing railroad corridor before connecting to the FAP 420 ROW. This is the shortest corridor and potentially affects few homes and businesses. Negative environmental impacts include unstable soils and relatively steep, forested slopes. The southern terminus is affected by wetlands and flood zones, as well as business impacts.
The Couplet Corridor proposes a new one-way parallel road for northbound US 12 traffic around the downtown and uses existing US 12 for southbound traffic. However, because of existing constraints, it would not remove traffic from the two key intersections that experience the most significant traffic delays. There are two options for the Couplet Corridor. The west option is on the east side of US 12 but closer to the existing alignment. This option traverses north through a residential area. The east option is farther to the east and avoids the residential development but has additional natural and open area impacts including the golf course.
Near East Corridor
The Near East Bypass Corridor is east of downtown Richmond and designed to avoid existing and planned developments. It has environmental impacts, with numerous segments located in wetlands and flood zones in addition to unstable soils.
Far East Corridor
The Far East Bypass Corridor is an alignment between Solon Mills and the intersection of US 12 in Wisconsin with a southern leg to IL 31. The corridor is long, costly, and does not connect well to US 12 in Wisconsin. It has negative environmental impacts near Elizabeth Lake.
The “No-Build” option does not address the current capacity deficiencies of US 12. Delays would only increase with the increase in local population and increased use and demand for regional travel.
Stakeholder Coordination ^top
The seven initial bypass options were presented to the project stakeholders and the public during the Public Meeting (April 28, 2010). Based on their feedback, two preferred corridors emerged: the FAP 420 Corridor and the Railroad Corridor.
At its northern terminus, the bypass connects to US 12 in Wisconsin, which is a four-lane divided freeway with limited access. The southern terminus of the proposed FAP 420 bypass is US 12 south of Richmond. The recommended bypass design should provide continuity of design to the existing roads and provide a transition from the higher speed roadway to the lower speed roadway. Therefore, a combination of design standards and a transition area should be applied to the new bypass design.
In the north, beginning at US 12 in Wisconsin, a freeway or a four-lane divided facility is the applicable design standard. Applicable intersection types are interchanges, with interchange locations recommended at Old US 12 and IL 173.
At or near Nippersink Creek, the bypass should begin to transition from a four-lane freeway to a parkway. A parkway was selected as the preferred design standard of the public and technical advisory group during public meetings. A parkway provides essentially the same traffic capacity as a freeway, and both freeways and parkways limit access to maintain traffic flows. Parkways, however, are considered more environmentally sensitive and use context sensitive design elements. In addition, parkways use significant amounts of native landscaping and limit signage to maintain natural vistas.
At the southern terminus, the roadway transitions from a parkway into the existing arterial configuration of US 12 and IL 31. Several interchange or intersection options could be applicable at this location, including a roundabout. A roundabout could provide smooth traffic flow and a key Gateway opportunity to bring visitors into the Village. However, a roundabout must be proven effective with an intersection design study before it can be implemented.