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The 8-mile stretch of Route 47 between Huntley and Woodstock is a very strategic corridor both economically and ecologically. This regional arterial state highway is located 50 miles northwest of Chicago in McHenry County at the leading edge of suburban growth. Route 47 also transects much of the headwaters of the Kishwaukee River, which has been rated by the State of Illinois Department of Natural Resources as a "Class A" stream (Unique Aquatic Resource), the highest level achievable, supporting a high level of mussel and fish diversity and other aquatic life.
McHenry County is the fastest growing county in Illinois, and population growth projections in and adjoining the corridor rate among the highest in the state of Illinois. Already, nearly 2500 acres along the highway have been annexed and zoned by the four adjoining communities; but because of the lack of utility extensions, little development has occurred directly adjacent to the roadway. However, the Route 47 corridor is experiencing significant pressure for development, which under current land use and transportation policies, would likely result in the type of suburban sprawl and highway-oriented commercial land use that would compromise not only the efficiency of the corridor's transportation movements and the ability to choose alternative transportation modes, but also the high-quality natural resources and environment that it transects. A better model needs to be identified and implemented before the opportunity is lost.
The corridor includes four towns for which Route 47 serves or will serve as a "Main Street" in terms of local economic impact, public perception of municipal character and community, and concentration of municipal infrastructure. In addition, the Route 47 corridor serves as the direct link between an existing commuter rail station in Woodstock at the north end, and a proposed commuter rail station in Huntley at the south end. The local land use plans have not been coordinated in a manner that would insure efficient transportation movements throughout the corridor or allow for transit accessible development, nor have habitat protection standards been established that assure the maintenance of an "A" rating for the Kishwaukee River. This means that land use and transportation decisions in each one of these communities, if made in an uncoordinated manner, could deteriorate each other's transportation network and the downstream environment, ultimately affecting the quality of life for all citizens living in the study areas.
This project proposes, by working with a diverse set of partners, to develop a long-range strategic plan that would coordinate a multipurpose transportation corridor with current and future land use in concert with the environmental protection of the Kishwaukee River. This plan would serve to facilitate the logical expansion of the affected towns in a way that provides multimodal transportation choices, while enhancing the individual character of each town and preserving the sensitive natural resources in the Kishwaukee headwaters. These project goals will be achieved through sustainable design and development practices that will address the transportation system as a coordinated whole; will link land use, transportation, and ecosystem habitat quality; and will ensure efficiency in both future investments and transportation movements.