A disruptive road project that has frustrated drivers in the Libertyville area for two construction seasons is in the homestretch.
The orange barrels, electronic message boards and other telltale signs of the ongoing widening and reconstruction work involving Route 21 (Milwaukee Avenue) and Route 137 soon are expected to be a not-so-fond memory.
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"We are still planning to open before Christmas -- all lanes. We're getting close and if the weather holds up, I think we'll be OK," said Stan Masnik, project engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Masnik estimated the $23 million project is 85 percent complete, including any landscaping to be installed in 2014. IDOT is managing the project but Lake County is paying for it.
"There will be some springtime work (but) it won't be bad," Masnik said.
Meanwhile, village officials are planning a campaign for when the work is done.
"We are looking to promote the businesses back to their customer base and to our residents," said Heather Rowe, economic development coordinator.
Businesses also are getting ready. For example, Cafe Pyrenees in the Adler Square shopping center in the thick of the project, had discontinued lunch during construction but plans to reinstate it in December.
The new pavement on Route 21, which was widened for 2.2 miles north and south of Route 137, is complete but won't open until the intersection reconstruction and widening is done.
The tentative plan for Friday was to shift traffic to the north side of Route 137 to allow crews access to the intersection, where the temporary pavement needs to be removed and other slots filled.
"Because the intersection is open (to traffic) there are a lot of little pieces you can't get to," Masnik said.
The final configuration of the intersection will feature two through lanes, dual left-turn lanes and a right-turn lane at each leg.
Crews on Thursday were building raised medians south of Route 137 and east of Route 21, and placing topsoil on medians and slopes elsewhere. Guardrails north of the intersection and striping for the entire job remain.
New traffic signals and streetlights may be installed next month, though that does not have to happen for the roadway to open, Masnik said.
The project also includes other improvements, such a new signal on Route 21 at Casey Road, with a bike underpass nearby to connect with extended trail systems. The underpass and nearby dog exercise area are expected to be open about Dec. 6.
Advance work for the project began in fall 2011, with tree removal and installation of temporary pavement.
"It's been challenging, " Masnik said of the project. "It's a narrow footprint and a lot of utilities in the way."
At one point, a holdup with AT&T resulted in a four-month delay. County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor recently met with AT&T to discuss the delays on this and other projects.
"I was encouraged because they were receptive to what they can do better and open the line of communication," he said.