Woodstock City Council approves $100K engineering contract for proposed bike path connections

A new bike and pedestrian path route connecting Woodstock’s downtown to Route 47 could be in the works.

The Woodstock City Council approved a contract Tuesday for an estimated $103,515 to fund initial engineering for the proposed connection, which city officials said would improve access to shopping, colleges, government buildings and employment centers

The prospect of additional bike paths in the area is exciting local cyclists.

“I think having the ability to commute or move around town on a bicycle is important, to have a town that is a little more capable of that,” said Josh Arnow, owner of The Bike Haven bike shops in Woodstock and McHenry.

The city’s proposal would enhance the Illinois Department of Transportation’s planned and funded $57 million Route 47 expansion project that is on track to begin construction in two years, according to a grant application Woodstock is sending to the state. That project includes plans for a 10-foot-wide shared-use bike path on the east side of the street.

The goal is to link that stretch with the city’s Metra train station, the Aurora University campus, City Hall, several new residential developments, the McHenry County fairgrounds, the post office and the existing Prairie Trail regional bike path, which connects to McHenry County College, Crystal Lake and beyond.

Additionally, seven of Woodstock’s top 10 employers are located on the proposed route, according to the application.

“This ambitious project will make the IDOT-planned bike/ped[estrian] path, part of the budgeted $57 million Route 47 expansion, truly accessible and worthy of the investment,” Woodstock Transportation Commission Chairman Andrew Celentano said in the application.

The city plans on applying for grant funding to lay the 1.3-mile downtown route, which would start at the intersection of Route 47 and South Street near the McDonald’s restaurant.

The loop would then go west past McDonald’s with a spur to incorporate the existing Raintree Park parking lot as an improved trail head site, and then run west along the high berm on the north side of Raintree Park, according to a staff memo.

It would offer a second offshoot to the parking lot to the south, and then turn north before the Union Pacific railroad tracks, proceeding northwest to the planned residential development at the former Die Cast site.

From there, it would turn back east at Newell or North streets, and reconnect with Route 47 for access northward to the Government Center along existing sidewalks.

A second new trail segment just less than half a mile on Lake Avenue would connect the new Route 47 path to the existing 10-foot-wide trail along Route 14, incorporating the McHenry County College on the route, according to the memo.

The existing Lake Avenue sidewalk is either 5 feet or 6 feet wide from Route 47 to the Walmart entrance across from the Woodstock water tower, where the path widens to 10 feet. This trail connection would link employers Charter Dura-Bar, Woolf Distributing, Catalent Pharma Solutions and Northwestern Medicine Woodstock Hospital, along with Walmart, to both the Route 47 and Route 14 walking and biking paths.

“It gets us from the heart of Woodstock the capability of riding through Crystal Lake, without fighting traffic,” said Arnow, the bike shop owner. “I know people who drive to Crystal Lake to get on the path there, because there is no safe way to get there from downtown. This will solve that.”

The city is aiming for project funding from the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program grant. The grant, if awarded to Woodstock, could fund up to $2 million for the project if it moves forward. The city could have to provide up to a 20% match for what it receives, but it is possible a less expensive match or no match at all would be required if the city is considered “high need,” according to the memo.

“The project as outlined includes minimal concerns regarding easements or property acquisitions, but final details can only be determined through Phase I Engineering Assessment,” according to the memo. “The project would include intersection improvements, directional signage, striping, safety lighting, landscaping, educational landmark signage and possibly even public art parklets, as budget and additional grant funding allows.”

The contract for the first phase of engineering was awarded to HLR, a civil engineering firm. It will be funded using dollars from the tax increment finance, or TIF, district established last year.

City staff will request support of the overall final project from the Woodstock City Council at its meeting next month.

“I really think it will be a great asset to our community, especially when we get Route 47 done,” Councilman Gordie Tebo said.