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Editorial: Wider road could mar forest preserve

Friday, July 29, 2011
Chicago Sun-Times

The Cook County Forest Preserve District was planning for the future long before many other public agencies were.

Our resulting inheritance is 68,000 acres of natural areas that now must be protected from overdevelopment.

The latest battle is playing out along Quentin Road near Palatine, which runs through the county’s oldest forest preserve, Deer Grove. We’re rooting for the preservationists.

The Cook County Highway Department has proposed taking a slice down the middle of Deer Grove so it can widen Quentin Road from two lanes to five. The project would run from Dundee Road north to Lake-Cook Road.

It’s an all-too-typical traffic-planning solution: Take whatever land is necessary to build a bigger road.

Often, though, bigger is not better. Who in his right mind, for example, would widen Sheridan Road on the North Shore, destroying a delightful (if sometimes congested) scenic route through the shoreline ravines.

Environmentalists and residents have drawn up an alternative, which calls for widening Quentin to three lanes and adding a parallel bike path — all on right of way the highway department already owns.

The third lane would be a series of turn lanes for cars moving in each direction, which advocates say can meet traffic needs for the foreseeable future. Volunteers this month were passing out information sheets and circulating petitions at nearby train stations, farmers’ markets and at Deer Grove in favor of the plan.

So far, the county highway department has favored the five-lane approach because it would have more capacity and because, under complicated funding rules, the county could get federal money to fix a small, decaying Quentin Road bridge.

Because of a governmental quirk, the County Board commissioners overseeing the highway department are the same people who sit on the forest preserve board, charged with protecting our natural areas.

In several recent instances, the commissioners have given up forest preserve land for road improvements, although some have said they would be reluctant to do so in this case.

We share that reluctance, and hope the board full board does as well when it makes a final decision about Quentin Road.



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