Guest Column: IDOT to fundamentally change the ambience of Rockton
By Dean G. Mohring
Over the last several years, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has held several public meetings to explain their plans to change the way Blackhawk Boulevard goes through downtown Rockton. Engineering drawings were laid out on tables showing their intent to make three lanes from the Rock River bridge to the four-lane Highway 2, north of the village. A final presentation was made by IDOT Oct. 28 at the Rockton Township Board Room during which numerous affected residents expressed their concerns. IDOT officials listened, but said this was the final version of their plans and that if funding were approved by the state, work would begin in 2016 and be completed in 2017.
Plans include two stop lights to be installed at Blackhawk and Main and at Union and Blackhawk. Supposedly, traffic studies require the lights at Main Street but are not currently required at the Union Street intersection. IDOT officials indicated they plan five, 10 and 20 years out, and the Union Street intersection would require a light in about five years.
Rockton’s architecture is unique and reflects the immigration years ago from settlers from upstate New York. It has a high concentration of limestone structures, Greek Revival-style homes, beautiful hard maple trees, and home owners concerned with keeping the general ambience of the village. Maple trees in front of many of these homes are scheduled to be cut down.
The corner flower beds downtown will be removed to accommodate the turn lanes at Main Street. To have turn lanes, it requires that traffic will be only a few feet from the limestone Talcott library and another historic limestone building across the street to the west. There is major concern that construction activity and subsequent heavy trucks from Highway 75 will degrade these old limestone structures. A suggested solution to the truck problem would be to route truck traffic onto Wagon Wheel Road rather than through the village, thus eliminating the need for the three lanes.
The Rockton Township Historical Society, at the southeast corner of Green and Blackhawk, will have a cul-de-sac at its main entrance. The plans presented show a diameter smaller than required in village regulations. Snow plowing, fire department access and parking are areas of concern.
A retired Illinois professional land surveyor in attendance questioned whether the state could just acquire village streets to make changes to their highway, and the IDOT representative answered in the affirmative. When it was suggested that Wagon Wheel Road could be used to divert Highway 75, the IDOT representative said, “That road belongs to the Village.” Wouldn’t transfer of that road to the state be a benefit to the village, since maintenance would also be transferred?
There is general agreement that the road needs to be resurfaced, but there is little agreement that a three-lane road is required considering the concerns above, the expense and two years of construction inconvenience.
Dean G. Mohring is a Rockton Township trustee.
From the Nov. 5-11, 2014, issue