After nearly a year of work on Route 59 in Naperville and Aurora, paving has begun.
Contractors recently placed the first stretch of permanent pavement on two southbound lanes north of North Aurora Road, and the work is a sign of what's to come.
It's part of a two-year, nearly $90 million project led by the Illinois Department of Transportation to widen Route 59 to three lanes in each direction between Ferry Road and Aurora Avenue/New York Street, add left-turn lanes, improve traffic signal coordination and construct a new "diverging diamond" interchange where Route 59 intersects with I-88.
And after tearing up and flattening the necessary land, removing utility lines from the new path of the road and preparing underground water storage infrastructure, workers from Martam Construction Inc. of Elgin were ready last week to begin paving new lanes, said Bill Novack, Naperville's director of transportation, engineering and development.
"The project is where we anticipated it to be," Novack said.
Work began almost a year ago, during the week of Aug. 19, 2013, and it has been causing delays on the already congested state road ever since.
Officials hit one snag in the process in June when they had to completely close Route 59 between North Aurora Road and Glacier Park Avenue from a Friday evening until a Sunday morning.
The closure was necessary to install a culvert to carry a creek under the road. Originally, crews thought they could install the culvert in two phases -- one this summer and one next summer. But Novack said it would have been difficult to line up the culvert under the road in two stages. And if it rained heavily while only half of the culvert was installed, Novack said it might not properly handle the water.
"They got the culvert done within the time frame they estimated. When we go to do the next stage next year, we won't have to put that culvert in," Novack said. "It's a little less work for next year."
Businesses along Route 59 have been dealing with slower sales and fewer customers, some of them posting "construction sales" to draw people in, and others creating unusual routes to work through strip mall parking lots instead of along the torn-up road.
At Cribs to College Bedrooms, 404-108 Route 59 in Naperville, owner Ken Eggert said the construction has brought frustration. Eggert said he tried to negotiate lower rent because of the inconvenience of the road work, but was unsuccessful. Employees and customers alike are looking forward to late next year, when the project is scheduled to be complete.
"It's been a headache," Eggert said. "We want it to end."