Peterson Road corridor viewed as key to growth in central Lake County
Construction this spring expected to spur growth
Road construction may be a rite of spring, but a project planned for Peterson Road is envisioned as the start of a bigger-picture improvement for central Lake County.
County officials on Tuesday are expected to approve a contract of more than $10.8 million to widen and make other improvements on Peterson from Franklin Boulevard in Libertyville to just west of Route 83 in Grayslake.
Delayed for two years, mainly because of issues associated with land acquisition, the project is ready to go as the first of tandem segments to improve traffic flow in what is considered a potential growth corridor.
County officials Tuesday also will vote to appropriate $1.075 million for design engineering to continue the Peterson Road widening from the point the first project ends to west of Alleghany Road. Resurfacing Alleghany north to Route 120 will be part of that project.
"This is a very important part of our east/west strategy in the central part of the county," Assistant County Engineer Al Giertych said of the pending and eventual Peterson projects. "This is an important economic development corridor for the county and the region."
Beginning in spring, Peterson will be rebuilt and widened to accommodate two through lanes in each direction and a fifth turn lane where needed. A landscaped median and bike path on the north side of the road also are part of the project.
Because of a high volume of truck traffic, the entire length of the improvement will be built with concrete pavement, Giertych said.
A big part of the project will be the expansion of the intersection at Route 83 for dual left-turn lanes, two through lanes and a right-turn lane in all four directions.
"The idea is to get an early start and get it completed in one construction season, which is Dec. 1. That will set the stage to start the next project to the west," Giertych said.
County board Chairman Aaron Lawlor said investing in roads and infrastructure is the top way to foster economic development. In the next six years, the county plans to invest $560 million in the transportation system, he said.
In recent years, a business park on the south side and a new Lake County Fairgrounds on the north have increased activity in the area of Midlothian and Peterson roads, but some available properties remain untouched. County officials think an improved economy will renew interest in the area, as well as vast open tracts to the west.
"This is an area the county really has been targeting for economic development in the future," Lawlor said. "We want to make sure the infrastructure is in place when that happens."
A huge prospect is the Alter Group's proposed $750 million Cornerstone development, spanning 641 acres on either side of Alleghany Road, north and south of Peterson. The company more than five years ago presented plans for an upscale mix of business, retail and residential uses but has been thwarted by the poor economy.
The plan is still on the books and the company has begun looking for financing, according to Steve Park, senior vice president of the Alter Group. Once that is secured, it can take a year or two before there is tangible activity.
"It will be a long time coming because it's such a big project," Park said.
He said the company has been working with Lake County officials and regards the Peterson Road work as a plus in the big picture.
"We're very positive about the county moving forward," he said.
Another factor in the mix is the long-envisioned extension of Route 53 into Lake County. The current planned alignment has it crossing Peterson between Midlothian Road and Route 83.
A blue ribbon committee -- which includes Lawlor and Park, a Gurnee trustee who is representing the village on the panel -- has been studying finances and land uses. They expect to have a proposal for the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority to consider in the first quarter of 2015.
"Between the northern extension of Route 53 and the widening of Peterson Road, we're providing a strong opportunity for economic development," Lawlor said.
The first piece of the corridor puzzle was put in place in 2011, with the $5.6 million realignment of the western end of Peterson Road to connect with a new intersection at Route 60.
County officials on Tuesday also are expected to appropriate $810,000 for preliminary services to include an investigation of corridor alignments for future extensions of Fremont Center Road, Winchester Road and Alleghany Road in a triangular area bounded by Route 60, Route 83 and Peterson.
"What we'd like to do is some advanced planning to move forward in a way we can build on over time," Giertych said.