ELBURN – Years before Henry Ford had introduced the Model T, customers at Ream’s Meat Market, which traces its origins back to 1904, already were enjoying high-quality fresh meat, smoked meats and other foods.
Of course, getting there from outside of Elburn wasn’t anywhere near as convenient as it is today. In a few years it might be even easier for carnivores from outside the area to enjoy Ream’s offerings with the development of a full interchange at Route 47 and Interstate 88.
The connection that now exists between Route 47 and Interstate 88 is only half of an interchange and limits drivers with access on two ramps, both on the west side of Route 47. Drivers can access Interstate 88 from Route 47 to head west toward DeKalb or they can exit Interstate 88 at Route 47 and head toward either Sugar Grove or Elburn. What they cannot do is exit from Interstate 88 to Route 47 while heading north on the interstate.
Businesses such as Ream’s certainly would benefit with the added accessibility, especially for those folks caught daydreaming about a midafternoon snack of homemade jerky or snack stix.
“We’ll just make more bratwurst,” Randy Ream, owner of Ream’s Meat Market, joked. “I think it’ll be positive all the way around. Just like having the train station in town, it’ll provide more access to our area. So it’ll open up business for us, and it’ll cut off at least 10 minutes on a trip to Chicago as well.”
Tracy Leach, Elburn Chamber of Commerce administrator, said she hasn’t heard much from businesses, particularly on Main Street, about how this would affect them.
“I personally haven’t heard much, but as a resident of Elburn, I think it’s a wonderful idea and from a business standpoint I think that they would appreciate and embrace it,” Leach said. “Not to be lazy, but it will cut 10 minutes to get on I-88 so it seems like a no-brainer, a win-win and hopefully everything falls in line.”
Jeff Walter, village president for Elburn, said the village has sent two letters of support for the project, including one recently, citing how the interchange will affect Elburn.
“On the positive side, it will make it more convenient for Elburn residents to get onto I-88 to head east and to get back to Elburn heading west,” Walter said. “The time and gas savings for Elburn residents will be significant.”
Walter said the interchange also would bring more traffic, which will provide more opportunities for people to shop and visit the village, but that also may cause congestion, especially from tractor-trailers.
“Even with the new bridge on Anderson Road there are still good-sized backups when a train passes through town, and I imagine this will increase after the interchange is open,” Walter said. “The interchange may spur the state into widening Route 47 from Sugar Grove to Elburn and that too has its pluses and minuses.”
Such widening could improve traffic flow, but downtown Elburn has little room for widening. And once the interchange opens, will small businesses come calling or will the area resemble Peace Road with large warehouses?
“The location is obviously a prime one for transportation uses, which means more tractor-trailers up and down Route 47,” Walter said. “The interchange will certainly be the start or catalyst for a different future for Elburn than if the interchange were not built. It will be important for the Village Board to pay attention and work with all parties to reduce any negative impact and to capitalize on the opportunities that present themselves.”