By Ted Schnell • BocaJump
Seven months after acting to pursue additional federal funding to offset its share of the costs and just three months before the state was set to solicit bids on what could be Elgin’s largest roundabout, the City Council will be asked to shelve the project.
If the City Council follows the staff’s recommendation, it will mean an end to the $3.3 million project that was 19 years along in planning for the intersection of Summit Street, Dundee Avenue and North Gifford Street (see map below).
Assistant City Manager Rick Kozal said the project was based on growth projections that preceded the Great Recession of 2008, which brought housing development across the nation to a virtual standstill. New development remains slow to recover, and projected increases of traffic that growth would have brought through that intersection simply have not materialized, he said.
Consequently, with the city facing a structural deficit of $4.5 million, he said, city staff sat down to re-evaluate the project and concluded the city has more pressing needs for the money the city budgeted for the roundabout.
The city’s share of the project construction costs would total nearly $1.13 million. But the city also faced the cost of acquiring additional slivers of property from neighboring property owners for the roundabout: CVS Pharmacy, BP, Elgin Cleaners, McDonald’s and KFC.
To date, the city has spent $653,432 on the first two phases of design work on the project. Kozal said that design information will be held for future use should growth re-establish the need for the roundabout.
The city also purchased the former Dunkin’ Donuts site, 505 Dundee Ave., for $206,816, and was reimbursed $81,520 by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, which had a role in the roundabout project as well. That city would have to repay that $81,520 if it abandons the project, according to a staff memo on the proposal.
Kozal said the property was acquired using Tax Increment Financing funds for that area. Only a small portion of that site was needed for the roundabout, he said, describing the acquisition of that property as more of a strategic move in terms of the TIF district.
“It’s a type of strategic acquisition the city normally would be making in a TIF area to control development of that corner,” Kozal said. “So (the purchase) does not really represent the cost” of the small portion of land that was needed for the roundabout.
“We did not need the entire parcel for that,” he said.
On Jan. 12, the City Council acted to pursue additional federal funding to offset the city's 20 percent share of the project's cost.
Planning start in 1995
The Dundee-Summit-North Gifford intersection first was targeted for improvements in 1995, based in part on growth projections that reflected the times: More housing and business developments were popping up in the area and traffic congestion was increasing. The intersection, a confluence of two major thoroughfares — Dundee Avenue and Summit, which is Route 58 — was expected to grow increasingly cumbersome to drive through as congestion was expected to continue increasing.
But the recession hit and the housing bubble burst, slowing growth considerably and taking a toll on city revenues at the same time.
“The numbers aren’t panning out,” Kozal said. “This structural budget deficit … has caused us to … go back to the table and rethink everything.
“And with the recognition that there’s a declining amount of dollars to use for capital expenditures and everything else like that, everything is on the table in terms of that analysis,” Kozal said.
The city staff began to re-evaluate as the city was preparing to ramp up its efforts to acquire the remaining parcels of land that would be needed for the roundabout. “We began questioning whether the foundation for the study that was initiated in 1995 … are still in existence today, and even if they are, if they are worth that additional $1.1 million, plus, that we would need to expend …”
Initially, the Illinois Department of Transportation had suggested a more traditional approach to improving the intersection, but its initial plans for the intersection would have had a negative impact on adjoining businesses, particularly McDonald’s, according to the staff memo on the project.
The roundabout was conceived as the only alternative that would minimize the negative impact on those businesses.
According to the staff memo, the city’s five-year financial plan has no funding available for any neighborhood street repair projects — because the city moved to take advantage of lower construction costs that came with the recession to make street repairs that originally been scheduled during these five years.
“Many streets within the city continue to deteriorate, and it can be reasonably argued that a higher demand exists for neighborhood street repairs rather than the Dundee/Summit intersection improvements,” the memo states.The staff recommends the council shelve the project and find an alternative use for the budgeted funds.
View Summit-Dundee roundabout site in a larger map