Major construction on Lake-Cook and Willow roads are among the headaches in store for North Shore motorists this spring and summer — but they are just two of the 75 projects outlined by officials recently for north Cook and Lake counties.
Representatives from Illinois Department of Transportation, Lake County Division of Transportation, Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways, and the Illinois Tollway gathered to discuss the 75 different construction projects at a March 15 meeting hosted by Transportation Management Association.
Two construction projects involving Lake-Cook, Waukegan and Willow roads are expected to start in the coming weeks, affecting traffic in Glenview, Deerfield, Northbrook, Northfield, Winnetka, and Wilmette.
The first project will reconstruct roadways at the intersection of Lake Cook and Waukegan roads, beginning by about May 1, and is scheduled to last until Oct. 26. Sponsored by the Cook County Highway Department, the $9-million improvement on the border of Northbrook and Deerfield will result in two extra lanes for Lake Cook, two new left turn lanes on Waukegan, 40,000 square feet of additional sidewalk, and utility and roadway improvements.
The second project will focus on 1.2-mile section of Willow Road in Northfield, between Waukegan Road and Interstate 94. That construction is expected to last from around April or May until Oct. 31, 2014. The $27-million project, spearheaded by Illinois Department of Transportation, will add two lanes to the road, reduce speed limit, widen the sidewalk and exit and entrance ramps along the Interstate 94, modernize traffic signals along Willow Road and result in about $9 million stormwater and utility enhancements, among other improvements.
"Every construction job has its importance," said Zona Anderson, a liaison for engineering projects with the Illinois Tollway, one of dozens of attendees at the meeting. "It may be an inconvenience now, but in four years, people appreciate the improvements."
The Lake-Cook Road project, which has been in discussion since 1998, came into planning after officials conducted a study that revealed the need for better traffic accommodation in that area. But the construction is expected to take a big hit on local businesses near the intersection.
One of the local establishments, the Boston Blackies restaurant in Deerfield, predicts at least a 30 percent loss in business.
"We'll have an aggressive construction," Jennifer Killen, spokeswoman for the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways, said in an interview with the Tribune in February. "This is to be mindful of the impacts to the adjacent shopping centers."
During the construction, at least one lane will be open in each direction for the four-lane Lake Cook and Waukegan roads. The work will be concentrated from Deer Lake Road to Ellendale/Birchwood Road on Lake Cook Road. On Waukegan Road, construction will happen from the Edens Expressway on the south to the Deerfield Animal Hospital, past Lake Cook Road, on the north.
Officials created a website, LakeCookRoad.com, that details each phase of the project and provides updated news to community members.
John Guccione, a Village of Deerfield liaison to the county department, said some advertising signs have already been finalized for the construction. In addition to driveway access signs, four specific signs will be placed around the intersection to let people know that local business are open.
He also said that officials would hold a community meeting sometime in the next two to three weeks, before the construction starts.
In a preliminary meeting, Guccione said the contractor for the project is getting prepared to work through most nights in order to soften traffic impacts as much as possible.
The Willow Road project, which has been controversial among some Northfield residents, has been talked about longer than the Lake-Cook Road work — it's been discussed since the 1960s, said Anthony Quigley, acting engineer of project implementation for the Illinois Department of Transportation.
"It's been an ongoing process," Quigley said.
Those in favor of the widening the road to four lanes pointed to bottlenecks created on the two-lane stretch of Willow Road during rush hour. But Northfield residents who opposed the development argued that it would harm the quality of life in their suburb and endanger pedestrians where the road passes near schools, parks and churches.
The project was finally approved last year, with the Village of Northfield signing off on it over the summer.
The construction contract was recently awarded to Des Plaines-based Lorig Construction Company.
Aside from widening the road, the project is aimed to improve safety in the area. The road's speed limit will be reduced to 30 mph from the current 35 mph. A pedestrian-activated signal crossing between Willow Road and Clarkson Park will also be installed.
During construction, at least one lane in each direction will be kept open. The Village of Northfield and IDOT encourage residents to visit their websites for updated information on the construction.
"We have an extensive construction program this year, and obviously there will be inconveniences," said William J. Baltutis, executive director of the Transportation Management Association who hosted the construction meeting for Cook and Lake counties. "But at the end of the day, those delays will have more improvements for a safer, quicker commute."
The association, which aims to improve commute of workers, has hosted the spring meeting for about 20 years, bringing multiple agencies together to look at the big picture of the area's construction projects, Baltutis said.
Some other projects that were discussed included Illinois Tollway's $2.2 billion bridge widening and reconstruction project for the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway 90, between the Rockford and Elgin exits, and Lake County Division of Transportation's Rollins Road Gateway Project in Round Lake Beach that will result in a new railroad bridge over an intersection of Rolling Road and Route 83. Some parts of the tollway project are already on the way, and Lake County expects its project to start this summer.