Widening the Tri-State Tollway through Lake County may have made traveling easier, but the improvements came with an unwanted byproduct for some residents in Green Oaks.
"Everybody complained about a new sound -- a kind of whining sound from the truck tires that was more grating on the human ear," Mayor Bernard Wysocki said.
Within the past two weeks, the news appears to be better -- at least along about a milelong stretch of the tollway between Rockland Road and Atkinson Road. The village will pay nearly $338,000 for a process called diamond grinding to hopefully reduce the racket along that stretch of road.
"The idea here was to grind it and produce a quieter pavement and pavement noise in the lower frequency range so it wasn't so obnoxious," Village Engineer Bill Rickert said.
That sound also described as "singing" by Rickert spurred several complaints after the tollway widening was completed about three years ago, and sent village leaders on a quest for a solution.
"Nationally recognized experts got involved," he said.
In the simplest terms, the concrete road surface had been tined or grooved perpendicular to the road surface, he said. The diamond grinding changed the grooves to run parallel, evoking "more of a corduroy-type feel," and theoretically producing lower noise levels in frequencies less noticeable to the human ear.
While diamond grinding emerged as the village's proposed solution, it isn't used by the tollway as a noise reducing technique.
"It's something the tollway does with regularity to extend the life of our pavement," said Kristi Lafleur, executive director of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority. "This will be an interesting test case."
The noise impact was particularly hard on the Forest Cove and Greenbriar neighborhoods west of the tollway. When the village learned that diamond grinding would be used to smooth the surface as part of scheduled tollway work to the south between Lake-Cook and Half Day roads, officials sought to piggyback the project.
But as the process is not recognized as noise mitigation, according to federal regulations, the tollway agreed to extend the limits of the work only if the village paid the entire cost, according to Wendy Abrams, the tollway's communications chief.
The back-and-forth discussion on the village board ultimately involved four separate votes between February and April.
"This is a very important issue to our residents -- it really affected their quality of life in Green Oaks," said Trustee Dan Sugrue, who chairs the board's roads committee. "We got such an outcry, we had to make this a priority."
In the final 5-1 vote to appropriate the funds, Trustee John Wagener, chairman of the board's public works committee, was the lone dissenter.
In an email, Wagener said he opposed the expenditure because he felt the tollway should be responsible for "fixing its own mistakes".
Sugrue acknowledged it is a sacrifice for the village, but solving the problem was a priority and resident feedback has been positive.
"So far, so good," he said.