They are hoping for the best, but drivers, business owners, civic leaders and others in Libertyville are bracing for the five-day closure of Milwaukee Avenue at the downtown Metra rail crossing that starts Friday.
"We are suggesting that people schedule everything earlier," said John Heinz, the village's public works director. "It's going to be bad, especially initially."
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The village on Tuesday evening sent what it called a "Code Red" -- an automated phone call to all residents -- asking them to walk, ride bicycles or car pool, and reminding them the downtown will remain open for business.
At 9 a.m. Friday, Metra will close the crossing, which is just north of Newberry Avenue, for emergency work. The entire crossing, including rails, ties, rubber panels and ballast, will be replaced because of an unusual amount of wear, perhaps because of the severe winter.
The work is scheduled to be done by noon on Wednesday, May 7. Trains have been under a 30 mph restriction at the crossing.
While the closure of the busy thoroughfare is only at the tracks, the detour route of Route 137 or Winchester Road to Butterfield Road to Route 176 will take drivers far afield. In announcing the closure, the Illinois Department of Transportation said the project will become "a significant traffic challenge for everyone,"
That includes the Libertyville Fire Department. An "incident action plan" has been formulated, and steps have been taken to fortify Station 2 on Golf Avenue on the south side of the closure with personnel and equipment.
"It's an inconvenience. We'll work around it," Fire Chief Rich Carani said.
Village officials also are worried about cut-through traffic on neighborhood streets, and barricades aplenty will greet drivers at various points.
"We've asked them (Metra) to place offset barricades so they (drivers) avoid the area completely or follow the detour route," Heinz said.
Only local traffic will be allowed within those points, but the definition of what that entails and whether police can enforce rules on drivers who are passing through is unknown.
"I don't think there's any way we won't get some traffic," said Mayor Terry Weppler, who lives on Appley Avenue, one of the streets considered a cut through.
Libertyville Elementary District 70 and Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 have been alerted. The bus company for both, Lakeside Transportation, has made route adjustments to ensure students get to school on time. Because Libertyville High School is off Route 176, employees have been notified to expect heavier-than-normal traffic.