Editorial: Wider road could mar forest preserve
Friday, July 29, 2011
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
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
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.