Eastbound Hawley Street reopens through downtown Mundelein

For the first time since construction barricades went up more than three months ago, drivers again are heading east on Hawley Street through downtown Mundelein.

A single eastbound lane for traffic between Midlothian Road and Chicago Avenue opened Monday afternoon. The freshly striped, black asphalt was smooth and made for an easy ride - a big improvement over the bumpy, pothole-filled surface that had been there before construction began in April.

The road is so gentle on tires and axles, a bicyclist was seen cruising eastbound without any problems shortly after the lane opened.

Crews next will tackle the westbound side of Hawley. That work should start this week.

Vehicles going in that direction won't face detours like their eastbound counterparts had, however. Because Hawley Street was widened as part of the $11.7 million project, westbound motorists will drive on what eventually will be a center lane until the regular lane is finished.

Hawley Street is the main drag through Mundelein's downtown area. It feeds into several residential neighborhoods and saw about 8,600 vehicles daily before construction started.

And the road isn't just being widened. New sanitary and storm sewers and water lines are being added, too. So are new traffic lights and sidewalks, and an extension of the Millennium Trail that loops through Lake County.

The project is expected to wrap up in November. Mayor Steve Lentz can't wait.

"Once the project is complete and the temporary mess and inconvenience are behind us, I'm confident the new Hawley Street will be a source of community pride," he said.

Mundelein and Lake County transportation officials are teaming on the effort, with the county covering most of the tab. When the work is done, that stretch will become the county's responsibility.

The project is on time and on budget, Lentz said. He described the communication and collaboration between the village and county as "seamless."

Some of the merchants and restaurant owners whose businesses line Hawley Street complained about decreased patronage and sales after work began. Village officials were sympathetic and launched a "Shop Local, Shop Hawley" marketing program to promote those businesses during the construction.

"Any major project of this nature is going to be disruptive to property owners in the construction zone," Village Administrator John Lobaito said. "The best we can do is complete the project as quickly as possible so everything can return to normal."

Brian Carmann, owner of the Caboose Restaurant at 320 E. Hawley St., said his sales were "way down" for the last few months. He doesn't expect business to rebound until the entire project is completed.

"Hopefully, there's a little bit more (now)," he said Monday. "There's a light at the end of the tunnel."

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  Traffic worker Jesus Tapia of Traffic Control & Protection moves traffic drums after eastbound Hawley Road reopens Monday afternoon in Mundelein. Gilbert R. Boucher II/
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