The $23 million widening of Milwaukee Avenue/Route 137 in Libertyville will continue to nag motorists for several more months. Expected delays later this week will lead to improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Weather permitting, seven 20-foot wide by 14-feet tall concrete sections will be delivered and installed Wednesday, closing the busy road for 15 minute stretches throughout the day. The sections will line the western half of a tunnel south of Casey Road, connecting bike paths on either side of Milwaukee.
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The three-sided, arched segments will be fitted onto a foundation inside the tunnel that sits beneath the rebuilt and widened southbound lanes. The other half will be completed later this year as part of the same work to the northbound lanes, which is targeted to begin at the end of the month.
The tunnel, along with sidewalks connecting Gurnee and Libertyville along Milwaukee and in Libertyville from the Route 137 intersection east to the Des Plaines River trail, was included as a result of discussions between the Lake County Forest Preserve District and the Illinois Department of Transportation.
"From the forest preserve perspective these underpasses are major improvements," said John Nelson, engineering manager for the forest preserve district.
The pedestrian-related work includes half-mile trail connections approaching the tunnel from the Libertyville Township bike trail on the west and Des Plaines River Trail, with access to internal trails at Independence Grove Forest Preserve, to the east. Those connecting segments have been built but not opened.
"That makes it (Des Plaines River Trail) accessible and linked up from Grayslake to the north end of Mundelein," Nelson said.
The underpass is not expected to be open until 2014 after the road work is finished and inspected.
"Just because they set the box (for the underpass) doesn't mean it's safe or complete to go through," Nelson said.
One of the last remaining two-lane sections of t Milwaukee Avenue is being rebuilt and widened and separated by an 18-foot wide median for more than two miles from near the Merit Club golf course in Gurnee to Finstad Drive in Libertyville. The intersection with Route 137 also is being widened with dual left turn lanes added at each leg.
The project, funded by Lake County and overseen by IDOT, began last year. It originally was scheduled to be complete Aug. 31, but the start of the main work was delayed because of issues involving utility relocation. The completion date has since been pushed back to January 2014.
In the interim, businesses along Milwaukee and Route 137 have been hard hit. Some, like the Ace Hardware just west of Milwaukee, reported business being off by 40 percent. Ace has been down to one driveway from three at times.
"Business definitely is still down," said manager Paul LaRoche.
But he says things have improved and good news is expected by the end of the week, as eastbound and westbound traffic on Route 137 is shifted onto newly built lanes on the south side of the road.
"Once I drive on this new concrete, I'll feel there's a lot of light at the end of some tunnel," LaRoche said. "From what we see, they're trying as hard as they can to get done."