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Article updated: 7/19/2011 11:19 AM

Overpass nixed for Fairfield Road/Route 176

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The preferred option for a major improvement at Fairfield Road and Route 176 near Wauconda will be on display Wednesday, although the design already is a done deal.

The Lake County division of transportation will host a public open house from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Mundelein High School, 1350 W. Hawley St., west parking lot. Visitors can arrive at any time during the session.

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"We're basically going to present it to the public and show them what the preferred alternative is and go from there," said Chuck Gleason, project manager for LCDOT.

The session is a requirement that will close out the first phase of a process that began in December 2008 and generated considerable interest and scrutiny because the intersection is surrounded by the Lakewood Forest Preserve.

After considerable debate and deliberation, county and state transportation officials, with the input of consultants and a unanimous recommendation of the Lake County Forest Preserve District board, decided to proceed with an at-grade option.

Essentially, the project involves expanding the intersection to have two through lanes and turn lanes at each leg.

Construction is estimated at $19 million, but land acquisition, engineering and other work bring the total cost to about $22.3 million.

How the improvement would look was a main consideration. Both the at-grade and overpass plans would have moved traffic through the area equally well, but the former was considered less disruptive.

Residents presented 1,300 signatures against the project, saying neither was needed.

"The process is what it is," said Lorraine Ray, an area resident, who spoke on behalf of opponents.

As a result of discussions, the plan was modified so trails will be rerouted via tunnels under Route 176 rather than through the intersection.

A Fairfield Road overpass called for a 20-foot high bridge and embankment that would have visually and physically divided the heart of Lakewood, forest preserve staff reported.

"The community is relieved it's not an overpass," Ray said. "There was some really good things that came of it -- no overpass and safe trail user crossings."

The county board in March approved a contract for engineering for the project's second phase as some of the work was the same for either option.

That involves detailed drawings and documents for bidding.

Construction of the road improvements is tentatively scheduled for 2013.

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