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updated: 1/31/2011 6:36 PM

IDOT gets earful on Milwaukee Avenue work

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Construction is a year away but there already is plenty of concern about the impact a big road project will have in the Libertyville area.

Business owners, residents and even Libertyville Fire Chief Rich Carani weighed in Tuesday on the $32 million plan to widen Milwaukee Avenue north of Route 137 between Libertyville and Gurnee.

The project scheduled to begin in late summer 2011 will eliminate an irksome bottleneck by widening the last major two-lane section of Milwaukee Avenue, which is used by about 28,000 vehicles a day.

But it also involves reconstruction of the busy intersection to include right-turn and dual left-turn lanes and barrier medians that would extend 400 feet from each corner.

Business owners fear the work will pose access problems and scare off customers.

"If we lose 40 (percent) to 50 percent, that is extremely concerning," said Rich Laskowski Sr., representing the Ace Hardware store on Route 137 just west of Milwaukee. "When it comes to construction, all of us in the room would do everything to stay away from it."

The comments came during a meeting of the Libertyville village board's streets committee. The village invited representatives from the Illinois Department of Transportation, as well as property owners and others who might have an interest.

The project has been on the books since 1990, but there never has been money to built it. IDOT will design and manage the project, but Lake County is paying for it.

"The project is going to take two years to build. Our goal is to minimize as many impacts as possible," said Catherine Kibble, section chief of consultant services for IDOT.

Many of the questions from those in the full board room involved how access to individual properties would be affected during construction and once the barrier medians are in place.

There also were questions about "flattening" a slight curved section of Milwaukee Avenue south of Route 137. The project's southern boundary extends to about Finstad Drive.

Carani said fire vehicles now use painted medians in the center of Milwaukee Avenue to avoid clogged traffic, but would be forced to navigate through oncoming traffic once barriers are installed.

"That's going to be an obstacle," he said. "I understand your concern but I don't think it's going to change," Kibble responded. Barriers are now required next to dual left-turn lanes when there are driveways nearby, she said, but agreed to meet with Carani to discuss issues.

Kibble said the goal is to get the work done as quickly as possible and move on. She said it is difficult to dictate that a contractor concentrate on a certain section at a given time.

"The more freedom we given them, the better bids we get. It's a very difficult thing to do," she said.

"I think you need to balance that," responded Lake County Board member Pat Carey, who has been dealing with similar work on Route 45 in her district in Grayslake.

The project will also include a new traffic signal at Casey Road, an underpass or overpass just south to connect a Libertyville Township trail with the Des Plaines River Trail and a sidewalk on the west side south from the Merit Club to Route 137.