Millburn Strangler fix debate continues

  • Traffic moves clogs on Route 45 at the Grass Lake Road intersection at what is known as the Millburn Strangler.

      Traffic moves clogs on Route 45 at the Grass Lake Road intersection at what is known as the Millburn Strangler. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer, 2008

 
 
Updated 10/27/2011 6:16 AM

As residents continue to hammer the selection of a bypass option west of Route 45 as the best way to tame the Millburn Strangler, a question to be brought to a county committee for a vote next week would keep that route intact.

Members of the Lake County Board's public works and transportation committee on Wednesday directed staff to prepare a resolution for the county to fund the road improvement, but transfer day to day management to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

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If approved, it would keep construction of the $34 million project, including realignment of Grass Lake and Millburn roads, on a schedule to be built in 2014.

Options to continue the process with Lake County as the lead agency or end its financial commitment and turn the project over to the state -- which could indefinitely delay further work -- were rejected by an informal consensus of the committee.

The directed action is the same as was pursued with the ongoing widening of Milwaukee Avenue from Route 137 north in Libertyville, another project originally targeted in the 1990s but delayed because of lack of state funds.

"We will prepare a resolution where Lake County will fund the project the state proceeds with," said Marty Buehler, head of the Lake County division of transportation. "They would be the lead agency." Committee members did not vote but individual opinions voiced showed a split decision. All agreed the traffic issue, first identified in the mid-1990s and reaffirmed as a priority project by county elected leaders in 2005, needs to be addressed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"The project is going to go through at some point anyway," said committee member Craig Taylor of Lake Zurich. "It's not going to go away." The longer it takes, the more thousands of motorists will be inconvenienced, he added in support of the directive.

At issue for many residents in the area is the western path chosen for the bypass, which cuts through McDonald Woods Forest Preserve and two subdivisions.

They question why a route through open farm land to the east of Route 45 wasn't chosen.

"Common sense is being ignored," Lindenhurst resident Mary Bruckner told the committee.

"It's an issue of the government being responsive to the people and listening to them," added Patti Douglas, also of Lindenhurst.

Committee member Bonnie Thomson Carter of Ingleside said she would be doing exactly what the residents are doing in questioning the route. Carter was not at the meeting but participated via phone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I understand their passion. Our job is to move traffic," she said.

Melinda Bush of Grayslake said she was "stunned" by the path of the preferred bypass route and thought the east path should still be a consideration.

"I would say let the state have the project and let them pay for it when they have the money," she said.

Committee member Jim Newton of Lindenhurst said he would vote against continuing if an east bypass isn't considered.

"We are the guardians of this money. We should have a say," he said.

Wednesday's directive showed a desire on the part of the county to simplify the layers of bureaucracy and give residents a clear idea of who they should be dealing with on a variety of issues regarding the west bypass route.

That path was selected this past summer by a group comprised of county, state and federal transportation officials as the preferred alternative from among three finalists, including one to the east of Route 45. The group based the decision on better performance and other factors.

Residents said they will continue to pressure local and state officials to reconsider the preferred choice.

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