Perryville dead at 173?

The Perryville Road extension (north from Illinois 173) may be killed after the Winnebago County Board meets Thursday. The board is expected to approve taking half the allocated $1.5 million for acquiring land north of the Illinois 173/Perryville Road intersection and applying it to improvements to McCurry and Willow Brook roads. The resolution authorizing the money reallocation is viewed by some as the first step in permanently killing the controversial northward extension of Perryville Road toward the Wisconsin border.

Machesney Park officials, including village President Linda Vaughn, want the road extension to at least terminate at Swanson Road—the village border with Roscoe. However, board members including Chris Johnson (R-4) said terminating Perryville at Swanson doesn’t make sense.

Terminating Perryville at Swanson Road means traffic would have to funnel into a two-lane road that is not built to handle heavy traffic. Swanson Road leads to Belvidere Road to the east and Illinois 251 to the west. If completed, as some would like, Perryville will extend from Illinois 173 to Illinois 75 along Mitchell Road, a nature trail, and Willow Brook Road for a total of about eight miles.

Vaughn said the county and Machesney Park “have a responsibility to provide more four- and six-lane highways to alleviate [traffic] congestion.” Critics counter that Vaughn is advocating urban sprawl that will actually increase congestion while making developer Sunil Puri and his associates more wealthy at the expense of the county and its citizens.

Vaughn has said several times that the village may pay for the northward extension of Perryville if the county doesn’t fund the project. County officials are considering calling Vaughn’s bluff.

Vaughn and village officials recently considered a controversial use of eminent domain to forcefully take 0.15 acres of property from businessman Dewey Henninger for a Puri-backed strip mall. The mall is slated for construction at the Illinois 251 and Illinois 173 intersection. Henninger and Puri’s company, First Rockford Group, Inc., settled before the vote took place last month.

Perryville near I-90

County officials would rather push the state to widen 173 from two to four lanes from Illinois 251 eastward to the proposed Interstate 90 interchange. Johnson said a sweeping right turn lane would be needed to improve safety for traffic heading north on Perryville to the east on Illinois 173 and from the east on Illinois 173 to the south on Perryville. Roscoe Village President Ward Sterett, many Roscoe residents and several county board members have said they are against Perryville extending into Roscoe.

Sources said one of the reasons the county is expected to pass the money reallocation is because Public Works Committee members have had difficulty obtaining and clarifying information about the extension from county administrators—namely County Engineer Joe Vanderwerff. Last fall, the county approved $1.5 million for land acquisition for the project between Illinois 173 to Belvidere Road. Sources said county officials haven’t received an adequate explanation from Vanderwerff concerning how his department calculated the $1.5 million figure.

Board members are concerned about large differences between county engineering estimated land values and the county’s hired appraiser’s values. Specifically, the appraiser, Charles Davidson of Davidson and Associates, recently valued the first 3,000 feet of the northward extension at $1.2 million, according to sources. Spending $1.2 of the allotted $1.5 million on roughly the first half mile leaves only $300,000 for the remaining two miles of land to Belvidere Road. This amount will simply not purchase the needed land to go to Belvidere Road, sources said.

The same sources said Vanderwerff estimated the first 3,000 feet at $400,000 versus the appraised value of $1.2 million. Experts said it’s not unusual for estimated and appraised values to differ because engineers are not adequately trained to determine land values. The land adjacent to the north of Illinois 173 is highly valued because of its proximity to the proposed I-90 interchange just to the east, about 1-1/2 miles. The land north of the Perryville extension is owned by Machesney Development, LLC—a company owned by Puri.

Vanderwerff said the estimate of $1.5 million from Illinois 173 to Belvidere Road was completed about one year ago and land values have “changed.” Vanderwerff could not comment about the large difference between the estimated and appraised values for the first 3,000 feet of the extension.

Clouding the issue further is Puri’s offer to the county to donate $900,000 worth of land to extend Perryville northward. Puri has yet to make good on his offer, sources said. Puri owns three properties between Illinois173 and Swanson, one at the Swanson and Illinois 251 intersections and more along Willow Brook near McCurry Road and Illinois 75 (near the Wisconsin border).

Curry and Willow Brook roads

If passed Thursday, the resolution calls for spending $750,000 to acquire land and perform engineering to prepare to expand and upgrade parts of McCurry and Willow Brook roads. Specifically, the roads would be designed to carry 80,000 pound vehicles and widened from two to three lanes to accommodate left turns.

The money will come from the $1.5 million already allocated for the Perryville extension through Machesney Park. Vaughn adamantly stated her opposition to the resolution at the last board meeting. Vaughn and other village officials are only concerned about Perryville terminating at Swanson. However, Vaughn said she would like to see Perryville extend to the Wisconsin border. Puri said the county needs to see the “big picture” and fund the Perryville extension through Roscoe to Illinois 75.

Sterett based his election campaign last winter on fighting the extension of Perryville through Roscoe. He publicly supported the resolution at the last county board meeting. Sterett and South Beloit Mayor Randy Kirichkow said alterations to McCurry and Willow Brook roads are needed for economic expansion in their areas.

The alteration to Willow Brook is planned between Illinois 75 to the north and McCurry Road to the south—a distance of about 2-1/2 miles. The alteration to McCurry is planned between Willow Brook to the east and Illinois 251 to the west—a distance of about 3/4 of a mile.

The resolution also calls for turn lanes at the Willow Brook and Rockton Road intersection. Puri, along with Chuck Howard, chairman of William Charles, Ltd. own more than 1,000 acres to the southeast and southwest of this intersection. Puri said terminating Perryville at Illinois 173 is a safety hazard, citing Illinois Department of Transportation officials.

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