Work began in earnest this week on the $10.8 million widening of Peterson Road in Libertyville and Grayslake, a project county officials think will improve traffic flow and attract business.
Heavy equipment is out in force to prepare the area west of Franklin Boulevard for temporary pavement, as well as to move utilities and install storm sewers for what is considered a key improvement for central Lake County.
"This was a project the county board wanted to get done. We wanted to create a shovel-ready area for business and to move traffic," said Diana O'Kelly, a Lake County Board member, who long has chaired its public works and transportation committee.
O'Kelly, whose jurisdiction as Fremont Township supervisor includes the area, was among about 75 people who attended an open house Tuesday hosted by the Lake County Division of Transportation at the Lake County Fairgrounds.
"We use the road every day. I wanted to see what's ahead of me, what I'm in for and what my alternative route will be," said Jeanne Cooper, who along with Don Poole came to the event from the Saddlebrook Farm age-restricted community further west on Peterson.
The project involves widening nearly 1.3 miles of Peterson Road from Franklin Boulevard to west of Route 83 to four lanes, with a fifth lane where needed.
About three-quarters of a mile of Route 83 on either side of Peterson also will be improved, and the intersection will be upgraded to include two through lanes, dual left-turn lanes and a right-turn lane in each direction.
A landscaped median and bike path on the north side of the road also are in the plan. All lanes are expected to be open to traffic by the day before Thanksgiving.
Next year, the widening will continue from that point to west of Alleghany Road.
Located on the north side of Peterson and Midlothian roads, the fairgrounds is in the middle of the construction zone.
Officials are watching closely as the annual fair has been stung in the past by roadwork involving the extension of Midlothian Road from Peterson to Route 137, as well as bad weather that has hurt attendance.
The 2014 fair is scheduled for July 23 through July 27, and with the rodeo back and lawn mower racing on the docket, officials are hoping for big crowds.
"That's why they jumped on it," county engineer Paula Trigg said of the focused early activity.
The goal is that by fair time, traffic will be shifted to the new permanent lanes on the north side of Peterson, while work continues on the south side. That would mean travelers wouldn't have to cross a construction area to enter the fairgrounds.
"The way it looks right now, we'll be fine this year," said Jon Brodzik, fair board president. He added the completed work will be a "huge benefit" for year-round access and traffic flow.
Landscaping and the bike path also will be an improvement, according to Sue Markgraf, fair spokeswoman.
"What this project will give us is a front door we haven't had before," she said.
Volo resident Matt McGrath uses Peterson Road to commute to Lake Forest.
"I've been trying a lot of different routes," he said of the trip that takes about 50 minutes. "Those peak hours can be pretty brutal."
He added he plans to share information from the open house with friends and co-workers.