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updated: 6/3/2013 5:25 AM

Answers to your questions on bridges, merging and more

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  • Traffic backups on Route 120 near Hainesville won't go away unless the state can obtain federal funding.

    Traffic backups on Route 120 near Hainesville won't go away unless the state can obtain federal funding.
    courtesy of Judd Hanson

  • courtesy of Anne FabingUnion Pacific Railroad engineers say this bridge at Route 31 in Geneva is structurally sound but workers will make "cosmetic" repairs this summer.

    courtesy of Anne FabingUnion Pacific Railroad engineers say this bridge at Route 31 in Geneva is structurally sound but workers will make "cosmetic" repairs this summer.


Is Lake County doomed to traffic on Route 120? Is the UP bridge on Route 31 unsafe? What the heck is happening with mergers on I-90 during construction? And what do women want?

We'll answer all these questions and more as In Transit dedicates this week's column to your transportation concerns.

Let's start with Jane Addams Tollway (I-90) commuter Jay Kuchel of Arlington Heights, who is suffering through construction between Elgin and Rockford this summer.

He wants to know if "the entire 40-mile distance between Elgin and Rockford is now limited to the 45 mph speed limit?

"It has never been clear to me if this limit is only applicable when workers are present," Kuchel said. "I have often noticed that some supposed work zones are posted for 45 mph, but there are no workers in sight for miles on end."

Tollway communications director Wendy Abrams said the "45 mph work zone speed limit is in place throughout the I-90 construction zone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of whether workers are present. We urge drivers to travel safely by slowing down and being prepared for other vehicles changing lanes or stopping. Construction work zone conditions such as narrow or reduced lanes, uneven pavement, equipment next to the moving lanes of traffic, as well as lane closures, require reducing the speed limit to 45 mph so drivers can travel safely through work zones."

No kicks on Route 120

Judd Hansen of Long Lake wants to know, "Is anybody complaining about Route 120 lately?"

"The intersection at Routes 120 and 134 and Hainesville Road needs to be addressed. They built all those homes (nearby) and didn't even install turn lanes for Hainesville Road. The backup starts at 3 p.m. heading west from Allegheny Road to Hainesville. With no right-turn lane, not many cars get through the light and it backs up quickly. Also cars turning left into the strip mall have no lane so traffic stops," he wrote.

Jae Miller of IDOT replied that the state recently concluded preliminary studies to install turning lanes at Route 120 and Hainesville Road. But the estimate for this improvement is $660,000 for construction and $345,000 for land acquisition, and funding is not in the 2014-2019 transportation plan. IDOT's applied for federal funding to be announced this fall. If that's successful, construction could get under way in summer 2015.

"If this project does not receive favorable consideration for federal funding, the location will continue to be included in our priorities," Miller said.

Is bridge safe?

Anne Fabing of St. Charles is worried about crumbling infrastructure on the Union Pacific train overpass on Route 31 in Geneva, especially after the bridge collapse in Washington state.

"I'm not an engineer, but clearly the condition is alarming," said Fabing, who also sent in some pictures.

According to UP, engineers inspected the overpass May 23 and "found it to be structurally sound and in safe operating condition," spokesman Mark Davis said. "Our bridge engineers will be making cosmetic repairs to the concrete structure later this summer."

Merging madness

Mark Lind commutes on I-90 and thinks the tollway is dropping the ball on the westbound lanes at Belvidere. "I was in the right lane ... about the fifth car with trucks on our left (where they are supposed to drive) when there was an arrow pointing to the left," he wrote.

"All of a sudden, brake lights were going on and cars were diving to the left lane. Fortunately there were no accidents. The person I was meeting for the day (in Rockford) mentioned the same thing happened to him. (Neither of us) saw any signs alerting the drivers in the right lane that it was closing and to begin merging to the left lane. There needs to be merge signage about a mile before the actually merge."

The tollway's Abrams replied, "There are a number of advance signs in place to advise drivers of the lane reduction and help them prepare to either merge left or if they prefer, take the alternate route."

"Permanent roadway signs notifying drivers that the right lane is closed are posted at one mile and one-half mile before the merge; a lane merge sign and electronic arrow board is posted 1,500 feet before the merge, in addition to an electronic arrow board posted at the merge," she said.

"We are also making adjustments to some of the electronic changeable message signs along the corridor at points three miles, two miles and one mile in advance of the merge to advise westbound drivers."

But the tollway recognizes it can improve and plans to add speed radar feedback signs that show drivers how fast they are traveling.

"We are also making adjustments to some of the electronic changeable message signs along the corridor, particularly those that advise drivers to merge into one lane in the westbound section near Belvidere, to give them even more advance notice of the need to merge left or opt to take the alternate route. In addition, we plan to add signs along the corridor that show the remaining miles of work zone ahead, so that drivers know what to expect in terms of how long they will be impacted by the work zone construction," she said.

RR crossing conundrum

Trudi Evenson of Wheaton wants "clarification on a sign that seems to confuse many drivers."

"As I drive along the streets that cross or run parallel with the Union Pacific/Metra lines there are specific signs that indicate no turns to cross over the railroad tracks. These signs will light up when trains approach the intersection. These signs were erected after the school bus accident in Fox River Grove," she wrote.

"It is my understanding the signs indicate that no one should turn left or right onto the street that crosses the railroad tracks, regardless of the color of the traffic light. That means that if you are traveling on a street parallel to the tracks and you want to make a right turn onto the street crossing; if the sign is lit, then you are prohibited from making that turn even if the light is green.

"It is a daily occurrence to see numerous vehicles (including law enforcement vehicles) make a left or right hand turn while the sign is illuminated. I am hoping that you will be able to find an accurate explanation of this sign and share it with your readers."

Wheaton Police Chief Mark Field replied that Evenson was correct.

"These signs were erected throughout Illinois after the Fox River Grove bus crash," he said. "When the signs are illuminated, drivers are prohibited from making a left/right turn dependent upon the direction of the arrow."

And if you really want to get into it, Field cited the Illinois Vehicle Code at

What do women want?

The answer is ... but wait! After consultation with female readers, we've decided men who read this column will just have to figure it out for themselves.

Got a question or a comment? Drop me a line at;[URL]


The public is invited to an O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission forum where tollway officials will talk about Elgin-O'Hare Expressway construction. The event starts at 8 a.m. Friday at Rosewood Banquets, 9421 W. Higgins Road, Rosemont.[/URL]

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