As soon as the Metra rail crossing on busy Milwaukee Avenue in downtown Libertyville opened this week after being closed for five days of emergency work, drivers and observers knew something was amiss.
The pitches on the road approaches to the crossing were not as gradual as one might expect, causing some vehicles to scrape bottom, materials in the back of trucks and cars to bounce and the jaws of drivers to clench.
"Something's not right," said Tina Richardson, co-owner of Mischief's Brewing, immediately south of the crossing. "It shouldn't be worse than it was before they started."
That has not gone unnoticed, and drivers and businesses beginning May 17 will have to endure another multiday closure and detour to fix the problem. The crossing will be closed for about three days, Metra officials said.
"We are sincerely sorry this happened and we will make every effort to expedite the work," Metra Spokesman Michael Gillis said in an email to the Daily Herald.
The crossing was closed from Friday, May 2 until this past Wednesday afternoon as Metra replaced the entire crossing due to unusual wear. The section of track that crossed Milwaukee Avenue is part of a curve. When a rail is laid on a curve, one side is made higher than the other, like a banked road, to ease the trains' passage, Gillis said.
In this case, crews miscalculated that section of track and one rail is higher than needed. This poses no safety hazard for the rail operation but makes for a rougher crossing for vehicles, he added.
Has that translated to business for North End Garage, which is on Milwaukee Avenue just north of the crossing?
"Not yet, but I did see a police officer picking up some debris from a car yesterday," mechanic Joe Ardito said.
The staff at village hall has fielded scores of complaints, and Mayor Terry Weppler agrees with them. There is a perception the work was the village's responsibility and the proper oversight appeared not to have been exercised, he contended in a letter to Metra and the Illinois Department of Transporation.
Weppler requested immediate action to resolve the "inadequate crossing" before many vehicles are damaged.
"It's terrible -- the bump. It's really ridiculous," he said Friday. "They screwed it up royally," he added.
So just when the frustration and inconvenience of a lengthy detour around the crossing and traffic restrictions were wearing off, the scenario will be repeated.
Basically, crews will remove the rubber, cut the asphalt, lower one rail, replace the asphalt and reinstall the rubber, Gillis said.
That will begin at 6 a.m. Saturday, May 17. Track repairs and adjustments will be made early Sunday. Asphalt installation will follow, with the crossing scheduled to reopen sometime Monday night, weather permitting.