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updated: 10/26/2012 4:55 PM

Libertyville businesses give IDOT their roadwork 2 cents

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Frustration remains high among businesses affected by a big road project in Libertyville, but village officials hope some simple measures might relieve the sting a bit as winter approaches.

Widening and providing temporary pavement on driveways, adjusting the timing of traffic signals, providing more room at key turning locations and longer construction hours are among the possibilities the Illinois Department of Transportation will consider after getting an earful Thursday from businesses near Milwaukee Avenue (Route 21) and Peterson Road (Route 137).

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"It got information to people and gave them some ideas of simple things we can do that may move traffic better," said Mayor Terry Weppler, who arranged the meeting attended by the IDOT's project manager and consultant that drew a standing-room crowd of about 60 people.

Weppler has been critical of how the $23 million project -- to widen the two-lane Route 21 to the north of Route 137 and expand the intersection -- has unfolded.

The village wanted the intersection to be done in one construction season, but a three-month delay in relocating utilities put the project behind. Weppler asked but IDOT refused to delay intersection work until next season, and the configuration of reduced lanes will stay in place through winter.

"We can't do anything. We tried. We don't control IDOT," Weppler said. "I want to hear things we can do to help."

Depending on the day, businesses owners have reported declines of up to 50 percent in customers as many avoid the area because of congestion and delays caused by the reduced lanes.

"We rely entirely on traffic and right now that traffic is gone," said Tom Evans, co-owner of a Dunkin' Donuts store on Peterson Road west of the intersection.

Safety concerns and the apparent lack of work in certain areas also were fielded by Stan Masnik, project engineer for IDOT and consultant Manesh Shastri of Tecma Associates Inc. Masnik cautioned that what might appear to be a solution to a perceived problem may not be practical.

"There's more to it than dump some gravel and put a turn lane there," he said of Weppler's question about access from Route 137 to a hotel and the Adler Square shopping center.

Weppler more than once reminded the crowd that Masnik was working with what he was dealt and that decisions leading to the current situation were made by others at the agency. That was of little consolation to some.

"It's not our fault AT&T messed everything up. They (IDOT) need to come out and redesign this. There's safety issues, there's businesses suffering. IDOT has some work to do," said Vivian Roman, owner of the Splash hand car wash at 185 Peterson Road, across from the Dunkin' Donuts.

"We'll run it by design to see if it's doable," Masnik replied.

A master list of business and project contacts will be distributed and attendees were urged to visit the village website and sign up for construction updates. Weppler said the village will do its best to promote affected businesses.

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