‘Long awaited and longed for’: Underpass work in Barrington set to begin

Drivers traveling through Barrington along Northwest Highway know what it’s like to suffer long delays as they wait for freight train traffic to clear along the Canadian National Railway tracks near Route 59.

But relief is on the horizon. Work begins this year on a $94.1 million project to build a long-awaited underpass carrying Route 14 traffic between Route 59 and Valencia Avenue below the railroad tracks.

Expected to be complete 18 to 24 months after construction starts, the underpass will eliminate more than 20,000 daily vehicular crossings, village officials say.

And there will be other benefits, including a path bordering the lowered road and leading to Lake Zurich Road and Citizens Park. In all, there will be 4,300 feet of new bicycle/pedestrian paths and 3,400 feet of improved sidewalks, as well as improvements to the intersection of Route 59 and Route 14.

Barrington Village President Karen Darch said the project also will provide an unblocked route through the village for emergency vehicles and vehicles traveling to Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital.

“This has been long awaited and longed for, and we're so excited to see it beginning,” Darch said. “It gives us an escape valve, one open place through the community where traffic can flow even when CN freight trains are coming through.”

Construction costs are estimated at $67.8 million, while engineering and design work, land acquisition, and contingencies are expected to bring the total to $94.1 million. Nearly $68 million will be covered by federal resources, including almost $49 million in Surface Transportation Program dollars. The state is contributing another $11.9 million.

The cost to the village will be about 4% of the project’s expenses, covering enhancements such as a multi-use path, streetscapes and other beautification work, as well as some of the engineering costs.

Work is expected to begin this year on a underpass carrying Route 14 traffic in Barrington under Canadian National Railway tracks near Route 59. Courtesy of village of Barrington

The work will start with tree removal, which needs to be complete by the end of March. The timing is important, since the Illinois Department of Transportation prohibits tree removal between the beginning of April and the end of October to avoid harming the endangered Northern Long Eared Bat

Other initial work will involve relocation of utilities, including gas, electric and cable, in and around the project area.

In June, the village will accept construction bids, setting the stage for roadwork to start in late summer and continue throughout 2025.

During construction, traffic will proceed along four bypass lanes, two in each direction, on land acquired for the project, officials said.

“For the majority of the time, there should be very little traffic impact,” said Marie Hansen, assistant village manager and director of development services. “We’re constructing a full four-lane, runaround road which will be operational during construction. So it will maintain the two lanes of traffic in each direction that there currently are today.”

The project has had a long genesis, even before Canadian National purchased the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway in 2009. The acquisition resulted in a dramatic increase in freight traffic, causing delays for drivers and emergency response vehicles. The EJ&E had averaged only five short freight trains through town per day. That grew to more than 20 trains per day, with trains averaging more than three times the length.

“So, from the get-go, the village looked for a way to mitigate that impact,” Darch said.

Concern about emergency responders was validated when a train malfunction on June 12, 2018 blocked all CN crossings in the village and delayed an ambulance carrying crash victims to a hospital.

Barrington received federal dollars for a preliminary engineering study that began in 2012 and hosted several community meetings to get public input.

IDOT approved the design in 2014, after which it coordinated land acquisition while the village worked to secure additional funding.

Updated project information and materials can be found on the village website, A project website is expected early this year with more detailed information and the opportunity to sign up for updates.

  Traffic backs up Thursday on Route 14 in Barrington as drivers wait for a northbound Canadian National Railway freight train to pass. Joe Lewnard/


A map depicting the project area where work is set to begin this year on an underpass along Route 14 in Barrington. Courtesy of village of Barrington
  Traffic delays are common at the Canadian National Railway tracks crossing with Route 14 in Barrington. Paul Valade/, 2021
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