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posted: 6/15/2014 9:55 AM

Semi-iconic Route 59 full of traffic tales

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As my late father grew in years, he became a little more ... quirky.

One of those quirks involved Route 59, where we often found a restaurant to meet for dinner more than occasionally. Dad, who continued to drive until his death two years ago at age 88, would often describe the circuitous route he had taken to avoid setting even one tire on Route 59.

Come to find out perhaps my dad wasn't growing in quirkiness; he was growing in wisdom -- and maybe a little ahead of his time.

As you read this, a Naperville stretch of Route 59, which carries up to 55,000 vehicles daily, is expected to reopen this morning following a Friday-night closing to route a creek under the highway. That's part of a $90 million, two-year widening and rebuilding of a 3.5-mile stretch of Route 59. The weekend closing was preceded by an unintended one on Wednesday, when a dump truck brought down some overhead lines, prompting an eight-hour closing of the intersection at Route 59 and Diehl Road.

So, follow Dad's example: Don't set one tire on Route 59 in Naperville-Aurora. At least not for a while.

I've never heard anyone describe Route 59 as "iconic," but it truly does have some interesting tales to tell, many of them having to do with traffic and the management thereof. Here are a few:

• In late February, we did an informal survey of public works people and such to devise a list of the worst potholes in the 'burbs. One winner was a stretch of Route 59, from Route 12 to Route 176 in Wauconda.

• The Route 59/I-88 interchange is likely to be home to Illinois' first diverging diamond next year at I-88. The concept is complex and maybe a bit scary. In essence, traffic is routed to the opposite side of the road while passing over the tollway. The process, we're told, reduces the number of traffic lights needed to control the intersection, allows more cars to pass through the intersection faster and actually reduces accidents. The design won a "best innovation" award for 2009 in Popular Science magazine.

• But if the diverging diamond at Route 59 and I-88 lags, another one under construction at I-90 and Elmhurst Road near Mount Prospect could provide our first test of the innovative design upon its completion in 2016.

• So many trucks were using North Avenue in Bartlett as a cut-through to get to southbound Route 59, the village is planning to lower the truck weight limit in town, except for local deliveries, of course.

• A group of us deep-thinking editors were musing on how long it would take to traverse the length of "Herald City," a term we coined eons ago for our print circulation area. I love a challenge, and with my vast smartphone knowledge quickly determined that you could cover the 76.3 miles from Tommy Nevin's Pub in far southern Naperville to Main Street in Antioch in 1 hour and 30 minutes via I-88, I-294, I-94 and Route 173, in 3:58 p.m. weekday traffic. But you could slash that trip to 59.1 miles by taking -- you guessed it -- Route 59. However, as I told my editor friends, that route "would increase your time to two days, I mean, 1 hour and 49 minutes."

Now, aren't you glad you asked?

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