Milwaukee Avenue widening project begins with tree removal
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The workweek at the Lake County Forest Preserve District began Monday with a touch of melancholy as the removal of hundreds of trees commenced along Milwaukee Avenue.
Working from Route 137 north, crews during the next two weeks will clear about 2,100 trees on the east side of Milwaukee Avenue in advance of widening the last major two-lane stretch of the busy road in Lake County.
Periodic lane closures will occur as crews navigate the terrain along the nearly two-mile, tree-lined route. Work was delayed for more than a week as the forest district awaited compensation for the tree removal from the Illinois Department of Transportation.
A check for $945,000 received Friday resolved the last detail, allowing Libertyville-based Lake County Grading Co. to start its part of the project, which is scheduled to be complete by the end of October.
The contract of more than $2.3 million calls for the removal of 510 trees of 6 inches in diameter or larger, most on forest preserve property.
Independence Grove Forest Preserve stretches from Milwaukee Avenue east to the Des Plaines River, and the district long has had its headquarters in an old house within sight of the road.
About 1,500 other smaller trees, many considered scrub invasive species, also will be taken out noticeably altering the landscape.
"There's a lot of vegetation," said Tom Hahn, the district's executive director. He said measures will be taken to preserve a row of distinctive large sugar maples in front of the headquarters.
But the canopy of trees over Milwaukee Avenue that drivers have become accustomed to will disappear.
Lake County Grading also will be grading, installing temporary pavement and building a construction entrance, among other advance work.
The main construction on the $25 million project is expected to begin next spring and last until 2013. An 18-foot wide landscaped median, traffic signals at Casey Road and dual left- and right-turn lanes in each direction at Milwaukee and Route 137 also are planned.
A tunnel beneath Casey Road will connect bike paths to the Des Plaines River Trail, and there will be other improvements.
"The trail connections, the tunnel, the sidewalks the amenities that will be here to access Independence Grove, they are huge public benefits we've been looking at for 20 years," Hahn said.
The Illinois Department of Transportation is managing the project but it is being paid for by Lake County.
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