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posted: 3/6/2012 11:51 AM

Short delay for Milwaukee Avenue widening in Libertyville

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The message to anyone driving on or near Milwaukee Avenue on the north side of Libertyville was direct, if not a bit early.

"Be aware of that and keep away from the area," Tom Hahn, executive director of the Lake County Forest Preserve District, recently reported to two board commissions meeting jointly.

At the time, the starting date for widening Milwaukee Avenue to the north and rebuilding and widening the busy intersection at Route 137, was thought to be March 1.

But that apparently was an early estimate of what is expected to be a particularly disruptive project scheduled to last until summer 2013.

"We do have to relocate some underground utilities," said Mike Claffey, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation. "The road impact won't start until after March 15."

When exactly that might be is to be determined as IDOT will meet with the contractor, Walsh Construction Company.

"It's more likely later in March," Claffey said.

Later this week, utility work will result in lane closures for several days on Milwaukee Avenue just north and south of Route 137.

IDOT is managing the $23 million project to widen the two-lane Milwaukee Avenue bottleneck for about two miles north of Route 137 in Libertyville to a point near Gurnee where it becomes four lanes.

Much of that distance borders the signature Independence Grove Forest Preserve.

Lake County is paying for the work to solve a traffic problem. The project long has been planned but wasn't close on the state's project list.

As part of a separate $2.3 million contract last fall, hundreds of trees were removed and a temporary road installed on the east side of Milwaukee Avenue in preparation for the main construction this spring.

The extensive pending work also involves: an underpass near Casey Road; bridge replacement on Milwaukee over Bull Creek; drainage improvements and construction of four retention ponds; and, sidewalks along both thoroughfares.

Libertyville village officials have stressed the need for signs to access driveways of businesses in the area. The village also will post a construction update on its website and visitors can sign up for alerts.

"I have something prepared. When they give me a date when they're going to start, it'll go out in two minutes," said Libertyville Public Works Director John Heinz.

Heinz said the village was told it was the intent of the contractor to complete the Milwaukee/Route 137 intersection this construction season.

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