Widening of Route 47 celebrated with ribbon cutting ceremony
SUN CITY — On July 17, the Village of Huntley completed a decades-long process to open some doors to its future.
It took the longest ribbon in the community’s ribbon-cutting history to get it done.
As recently as the late 1980s, Huntley was a sleepy little farming town, with just a few thousand residents. But urban sprawl was soon to transform the village. The biggest change came in 1997, when Del Webb, prominent retirement-community home builder, bought 2,200 acres on the village’s southwest side and announced it would construct more than 5,400 homes in its four-season seniors-only active adult subdivision.
Del Webb chose the site because of its proximity to two key roadways – the I-90 Jane Addams tollway out of Chicago, and state route 47, running north-south through the heart of the village.
Paved in 1936 to aid farmers in transporting crops and machinery to aid the local agricultural economy, the roadway by the 1990s was choked and congested as home building and expansion came to the Fox Valley.
Widening of 47 into a four-lane route to and through the village was a dream of village officials for decades, but it became a reality in the 21st century as Sun City developed rapidly and the village’s population ballooned to more than 22,000. Finally, through funding, engineering design, and the cooperation of the Illinois Department of Transportation the two-year construction project was completed in 2011.
On July 17, nearly 100 Huntley village officials, business leaders, residents, and media representatives met near the entrance of Deicke Park and kicked off the 2012 Huntley Days celebration with a ribbon-cutting and grand opening of a much wider, safer, and efficient Route 47.
The village marked the occasion by bringing a Public Works truck on which was mounted a 75-foot-high “dead man’s roost,” as it is known, for a dramatic picture-taking event. Just about everyone in the group had their hands on the very long, red ribbon when it was cut.
Officials were eloquent and enthusiastic in their comments.
“This is a vital part of our future, and it is a much better economic engine now,” said village trustee Harry Leopold, a resident of Sun City. “We believe it will help us attract businesses and reduce confusion. Tied with the expansion of the I-90 interchange at the south edge of town, it should point us toward a bright future.”
“It will make a big difference,” said Rita Slawek, president and CEO of the Huntley Chamber of Commerce. “IDOT did an amazing job, and we’re good to go now. More people will be able to both go through town more efficiently, and stop and shop much easier. It looks good and flows good, and I love to see that.”
“This is the fruition of decades of work,” said Dave Johnson, village manager. “We spent a lot of time in Springfield and Schaumburg, so many had to cooperate to get this done. Despite the downturn in the economy, we’ve been able to invest in this. Private sector interest in our area is picking up now, and this project sets the table for our future.”
Mayor Chuck Sass echoed the “it took decades to get here” idea.
“It took us a long time to convince Springfield and IDOT that this roadway was an economic engine for us,” he said. “They invested and we invested. This cost us about $5 million, and cost $23 million totally. The two years of construction was tough, but now we all know it was worth it.”