Among the tales of traffic woe in Lake County, congestion at the intersection of Rollins Road and Route 83 in Round Lake Beach holds a special place.
Graded "F" by transportation officials, its irritant factor is unique because a railroad crossing on Rollins is only 90 feet west of Route 83, often creating fist-pounding delays as 50 commuter and freight trains a day pre-empt the traffic signals.
"It takes typically three to five cycles after the train leaves for those signals to get back into coordination," said Al Giertych, assistant county engineer.
It has been that way for a long time, with promised relief rising nearly to the level of folklore.
"It was talked about when I walked in the door in '93," Round Lake Beach Village Administrator Dave Kilbane said.
To untangle the mess, Rollins Road will be rebuilt and dropped beneath a bridge that will be built to carry the railroad tracks. And nearly four years after the Lake County Department of Transportation initiated the Rollins Road Gateway study, visible evidence of the complicated $37 million project is about to surface.
On Tuesday, the Lake County Board will vote on an agreement to pay ComEd $1.5 million to relocate distribution lines south of Rollins between Route 83 and Mallard Creek Road. The work involves removing and setting 16 wooden poles, wires and related equipment and installing more than half a mile of conduit and nearly a mile of underground cable.
Moving the electric service is expected to be a substantial project in its own right.
This past summer, the county agreed to pay ComEd about $3 million to relocate three massive metal transmission towers on the west side of Route 83, on either side of Rollins. Construction of foundations for three replacement towers and one new one is expected to begin in December. Installation of temporary lines will begin in February, with the switch-over in March and April.
"It's a whole different animal. These are huge," Giertych said.
Both aspects of the ComEd work need to be completed in advance of construction, which has a variety of elements to be incorporated in several stages, including the installation of a temporary Rollins Road south of its current location in the utility's right of way.
Construction costs are estimated at about $37 million, with right of way acquisition, engineering, utility relocation and construction supervision bringing the total to about $61 million. It is one of four county "challenge" projects to be paid with proceeds from a sales tax increase for transportation projects instituted in 2008.
The temporary road is one aspect of a multidimensional project to lower Rollins beneath a bridge that will replace the existing at-grade crossing. Rollins will remain five lanes, and another lane will be added to the two-lane Route 83 at the intersection.
"That's one of worst intersections in the county," said Chuck Gleason, project manager for the Lake County Division of Transportation. "It has a lot to do with Hainesville Road being close to the railroad tracks and the railroad tracks being close to 83. We're going to eliminate the railroad from the equation."
The intersection of Hainesville Road at Rollins will be moved about 500 feet west and a shopping center entrance east of Route 83 will be moved farther east to increase the distance between lights.
"It'll make it easier for people to get through the corridor," Kilbane said. "You won't have people trying to bypass that intersection."
The area is heavily commercial and includes the Mallard Creek strip center, which has been targeted for redevelopment since Walmart, the main tenant, built a new store to the north a few years ago.
"Part of the problem has been uncertainty of the timeline, when the project will start, when the project will be completed," Kilbane said. "The hope is that uncertainty comes off (and) businesses will be ready to reinvest."
Access to the many businesses in the area will remain open during construction. The new configuration is expected to help when complete, but it will be a long haul. Giertych expected the project to be put out to bid in April, with construction beginning possibly in June.
"It's going to take us a full two years of construction. This is a massive project," he said.