Rolling Meadows Public Works Director Fred Vogt didn't mince words when he alerted area businesses to the roadwork about to start around Golf and New Wilke roads.
"It is anticipated that MAJOR DELAYS will result during this road construction project," Vogt wrote in a letter last month.
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Starting today, the roughly 70,000 cars that travel through the already congested intersection each day will be squeezed into an even smaller bottleneck. Traffic will be reduced to one lane each direction through at least late October, Vogt said.
When work is complete, Golf will be expanded to three lanes of through traffic in each direction between Algonquin Road and the Jane Addams Tollway overpass. In addition, a second left turn lane will be added for eastbound Golf traffic to northbound New Wilke.
New traffic signals at two intersections will be installed, and improvements will be made to the storm sewer system, sidewalks, bike path, driveway entrances, medians, retaining walls and landscaping.
All lanes should be open by November or December at the latest, Vogt said, while some minor work such as landscaping will wrap up in spring 2014.
The project is being funded with $3.5 million from the federal government, $4.1 million from the state and more than $500,000 from the city of Rolling Meadows, Vogt said.
Despite the impending traffic headaches, Vogt pointed to a couple, small silver linings.
For one, Vogt said commuters tend to figure out alternative routes pretty quickly, recommending Algonquin Road as one option.
"We typically see significant backups for the first week or two, but then the motoring public realizes, hey, it'd be better to find another way," Vogt said.
He said many of the businesses have multiple access points, and that driveways will be closed one at a time. Vogt added it's fortunate that businesses within the construction zone are almost exclusively chains such as Meijer, Starbucks and Portillo's, which can better absorb the impact of customers avoiding the area.
One independent business hoping to weather the next year is Sharkey's Car Wash and Auto Appearance Center at 5600 S. New Wilke Road.
Although traffic on New Wilke also will be reduced to one lane in each direction for a small stretch between Golf Road and Golf Place, Sharkey's, located just north of there, is accessible from an unaffected Algonquin Road.
Manager Ray Colletti, who opened Sharkey's in December 2010, expects the project will be less damaging than when crews ripped up all four lanes of New Wilke in 2011.
"There were days when you couldn't see across the street with all the dust," Colletti said. "Any construction is not good for business, but this shouldn't hurt us quite as badly."
Vogt said the upcoming project dates back to 1998, when Rolling Meadows officials examined traffic projections.
He said the number of cars passing through the intersection will only grow as underdeveloped parcels attract new businesses. There also are vacant buildings, such as the shuttered Unilever research center.
"Grant money is tied into job generation, so we had to abandon efforts to do the rest of Golf after companies like Unilever and 3Com started taking employees away," he said.
Rolling Meadows officials had hoped to widen Golf even farther west, but Vogt said reconfiguring the road as it goes under the tollway bridge and over Salt Creek would be too costly right now.
Although it's an Illinois Department of Transportation project, city engineer Christopher Burke, who has worked with Rolling Meadows for 14 years, will serve as construction manager and will coordinate and communicate with businesses.
"From what we've discussed with businesses, it's clear that they're not happy about it being a difficult year, but they realize it was coming sooner or later," Vogt said.