Visitors to the Lake County Fair and other attractions between Mundelein and Grayslake can use an alternative route without burning any gas.
Open six weeks ahead of schedule, the recently completed Prairie Crossing bike path traverses 3.6 miles along Midlothian Road, from the Millennium Trail along Hawley Street near Mundelein High School, north to the namesake neighborhood near Route 137.
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The north-south trail becomes a regional travel option for residents in Mundelein, Libertyville and Grayslake, providing access to two Metra commuter stations, the Fremont Public Library, Barefoot Bay Family Aquatic Center and Community Park, the Long Meadow Commons shopping center, as well as the Rollins Savannah Forest Preserve.
"It's wonderful for the fair because it's a different point of access," said Sue Markgraf, a Mundelein resident and spokeswoman for the annual county fair, which begins today at the fairgrounds at Midlothian and Peterson roads. "If you live in the area of the fairgrounds and you like to bike, ride your bike over. It's so easy."
The trail was built on the west side of Midlothian Road by the Lake County Division of Transportation, which maintains more than 50 miles of bike paths. This stretch was identified as a priority in the department's 2020 plan.
"These are transportation corridors so we look to facilitate and improve all modes of transportation," said Al Giertych, assistant county engineer.
Giertych said the Prairie Crossing Path has been built in sections the past three years, including along the extension of Midlothian Road north from Peterson to Route 137, which was completed last summer. This season, gaps totaling a third of a mile were connected to complete the project.
"Now, it's a high value pedestrian and bicycle facility," Giertych said.
Federal congestion and air quality funds were used to pay 80 percent of the $540,000 cost, with Lake County picking up the 20 percent local share.
Dry weather allowed the work to proceed more quickly than usual, as has been the case with other projects dealing with earthmoving, drainage or paving, according to Giertych.
Other bike paths planned for construction include along Washington Street from Atkinson Road to the College of Lake County in Grayslake, along Peterson Road from Route 45 to west of Alleghany Road in Libertyville and Grayslake, and along Deerfield Road from Milwaukee Avenue to Saunders Road in Riverwoods.