The first project in what has been a nearly two-decade process to ease congestion in Grayslake is complete with the extension of Atkinson Road.
"Everyone here is really excited to see the road finally open," said Derek Soderholm, deputy village manager. "Hopefully it helps alleviate some of the traffic on Route 83 and (Route) 137."
Discussion for the extension, which provides a direct connection between Route 120 and Route 137, began in 1995 and spanned the administration of three mayors.
"It goes way back," recalled Pat Carey, a Lake County Board member, who was mayor at the time. "Anything we can do to keep people off (Route 120) is a good thing."
Soderholm said the initial discussion evolved into an analysis by the Illinois Department of Transportation of more extensive improvements for the area. Routes 83 and 137 and Ivanhoe Road meet at what he described as a "very angled intersection." A railroad crossing on Route 120 immediately west of Route 83 contributes to traffic backups.
"It's part of the triangle project," Mayor Rhett Taylor said of the Atkinson extension. "There are three phases." The overall plan envisions improvements to the intersections of routes 120 and 83, routes 137 and 83, and Atkinson Road/Route 120.
Next in line is the realignment of Route 83 by IDOT to meet the extension at a right angle and eliminate the angled intersection. Taylor said the design should be completed in 2014 and construction could begin in 2015 or 2016, depending on the availability of state funds.
No timetable has been set for the third phase, which is the expansion of the Route 120/83 intersection.
"Ultimately, Route 83 there will be moved farther to the east," Taylor said.
Including engineering, land acquisition, utility relocations and construction, the Atkinson extension cost $9.1 million. More than half of that -- $4.5 million -- came from a federal grant courtesy of then-U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean and the state contributed $300,000.
Village officials over the years continued to set aside money in the capital plan to pay the local share.
"We were able to plan that and reserve dollars," Soderholm said.
Taylor said he considered the extension a milestone that village staff worked diligently to see through.
"I felt it was important to execute so we wouldn't lose the federal funding," he said. Grayslake will continue to work with IDOT to secure funding for the comprehensive road improvement plan, he said.