Planning has begun for future improvements to a 9-mile stretch of Route 173 through Antioch, Old Mill Creek and Wadsworth.
The process, which will include extensive public participation, was introduced Thursday by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
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"It's the beginning of the beginning," said Steve Schilke, of IDOT. "We don't know what this is going to be. All we know is we have to gather the comments of the community."
As outlined, the process will take three years before preferred options are selected and a design is approved for the stretch from Route 59 east to Route 41. And at this point, there is no money approved for construction.
But judging from the number of yellow sticky notes affixed to an aerial map of the study area laid out on long tables at the Lakes Region Historical Meeting House in downtown Antioch, there is plenty of interest in what happens.
"It's a long time coming," said Lake County Board member Linda Pedersen, whose district includes Antioch.
"We're all pleased to see it," added Wadsworth Village President Glenn Ryback.
Visitors noted areas with dangerous curves or poor pedestrian access, along with many other observations, including the need for a full interchange at I-94.
Antioch village Trustee George Sakas said Pleasant Prairie, Wis., has improved roads to lure business.
"That's our competition," Sakas said. "We all have plans to develop this corridor."
Route 173 has the potential to be a business generator for northern Lake County, village leaders contend, and a full interchange is critical to the immediate area and region.
Dustin Nilsen, Antioch's director of planning and zoning, estimated more than 1,000 jobs and 1 million square feet of industry have left Illinois and located just over the state line in southern Wisconsin.
Antioch plans to submit extensive comments as the Route 173 planning process proceeds, he added.
Public participation is considered essential by IDOT so a variety of questions concerning safety, land uses, traffic movement and environmental issues, for example, can be addressed.
Data showed there were 885 crashes between 2006 and 2009 in the study area. According to IDOT, 285 of those involved injuries, including three fatalities.
A key part of the process will be a technical advisory group to be made up of residents, property owners, business interests and others to discuss issues and build a consensus.
"We're looking for a broad slice of shareholders throughout the entire community," Schilke said.
Visit www.IllinoisRoute173Study.com for details.