Work continues in Lake Barrington on fifth roundabout in Lake County

Work continues in Lake Barrington on fifth roundabout in Lake County

  • Jeffrey Dayson, resident engineer with the Lake County Division of Transportation, is overseeing work associated with the construction of a roundabout to replace the "T" intersection at Roberts and River roads in Lake Barrington. The $6.5 million project, expected to be completed next fall, will be the fifth roundabout in Lake County.

    Jeffrey Dayson, resident engineer with the Lake County Division of Transportation, is overseeing work associated with the construction of a roundabout to replace the "T" intersection at Roberts and River roads in Lake Barrington. The $6.5 million project, expected to be completed next fall, will be the fifth roundabout in Lake County. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

  • Work continues to stabilize the ground at Roberts and River roads in Lake Barrington continues. The "T" intersection is being replaced with a roundabout, the fifth in Lake County. River Road is in the background.

    Work continues to stabilize the ground at Roberts and River roads in Lake Barrington continues. The "T" intersection is being replaced with a roundabout, the fifth in Lake County. River Road is in the background. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

  • Looking west, eastbound traffic on Roberts Road in Lake Barrington passes the construction associated with a new roundabout at River and Roberts roads.

    Looking west, eastbound traffic on Roberts Road in Lake Barrington passes the construction associated with a new roundabout at River and Roberts roads. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • A roundabout is considered the preferred alternative to improve traffic flow at River and Roberts roads in Lake Barrington.

    A roundabout is considered the preferred alternative to improve traffic flow at River and Roberts roads in Lake Barrington. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted1/11/2015 7:00 AM

It's difficult to envision what will emerge from the ongoing construction at Roberts and River roads in Lake Barrington.

River Road has been closed north of Countryside Drive for months, eliminating direct access to Roberts. Drivers on Roberts, detoured away from the work area, see only a gray expanse of dust, rock and gravel. But activity is at a critical stage as the literal foundation is being laid for this uncommon $6.5 million project.

 

When complete this fall, the former "T" intersection will be replaced by a roundabout, a circular configuration intended to allow continuous traffic movement at slow speeds. This will be the fifth roundabout in Lake County and the first with multiple lanes.

The project began in earnest last August and is about a third complete.

Because the area is bordered by wetlands, stabilizing the ground so whatever is built doesn't sink is imperative. To that end, Jeff Dayson, resident engineer for the Lake County Division of Transporation, has been keeping track of the installation of about 1,800 cement and sand piers, also known as ground improvement columns, which are sunk to depths of 30 to 40 feet.

"The purpose of the columns is to improve the stability of the new roadway embankment," he said. "The ground is not stable enough to build on, as it consists of soft organic soils."

The Lake County Forest Preserve District and village of Lake Barrington are partners in the project, which extends about 1,000 feet east and west along Roberts Road and 800 feet south along River Road. It includes a path to connect to the Fox River Forest Preserve and a sidewalk to the Twin Ponds subdivision. Visit www.riverroberts.com for details.

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While intended to move traffic more efficiently, improve safety and cut emissions, roundabouts often are greeted with skepticism.

"People think they're a waste of time and money, and they're opposed to it," said Lake County Board member Craig Taylor, who represents the neighboring district and travels the area frequently.

However, once given a spin -- "they get on board and are thrilled," added Taylor, who is on the board's public works and transportation committee.

"The natural inclination is 'Why a roundabout? Why now and at what cost?'" said county board member Nick Sauer, who represents the district and is vice chair of the public works and transportation committee.

The project is intended to improve air quality because vehicles won't idle at the intersection, and 80 percent of the cost is being paid through the federal Congestion, Mitigation & Air Quality improvement program. Those funds are administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation, which signed off on the Roberts/River Road project.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

IDOT spokesman Quinn Carson said the agency has been considering adding roundabouts to its "toolbox" of potential solutions but has not built any.

"They are complicated to design and many stakeholders have concerns about them," he said. "Subtle design changes can affect how they operate, so Illinois is being cautious."

Disadvantages include driver unfamiliarity, more caution needed on the part of pedestrians because there is no signal and potentially more property acquisition needed than at a typical intersection.

According to state and federal transportation agencies, roundabouts greatly improve safety by reducing the number of crashes, fatalities and injuries.

"The safety of a roundabout is far better than a traffic signal," said Chuck Gleason, project manager for the county division of transportation. "If there is an accident at a roundabout, it's generally a very minor accident."

Planning for the Roberts/River intersection began in 2008, as county engineers studied how best to ease significant backups during morning and evening rush hours. At that time, about 20,000 vehicles per day passed through the intersection.

As with other intersection improvement projects, the county evaluates whether a traffic signal or roundabout would be the better option to improve the level of service, which is assigned a grade similar to a report card, Gleason said.

While the performance of most intersections could be improved to a high level, the cost may be prohibitive, Gleason said.

The goal is to improve the flow and meet the needs of 2030 traffic estimates at a feasible expense, he said.

But roundabouts aren't always the best option because of traffic volumes or movement on the legs of the intersection, he added, as was the case with the recently completed traditional intersection widening at Fairfield Road and Route 176.

At River and Roberts roads, about $4 million in ground improvement work would have been necessary regardless of what type of intersection was selected, according to Glenn Petko, engineer of construction for LCDOT. All the alternatives cost about the same, but an evaluation showed traffic would move best with a roundabout, Gleason said.

Roundabouts are few and far between. There's one in Pingree Grove in Kane County, but Lake County is considered a leader in building them in the Chicago area.

Cumberland Circle, an aging traffic circle on Golf Road in Des Plaines, differs from the modern roundabout in that it requires drivers to stop rather than yield before entering, and it is has five unevenly placed legs, according to the Lake County Department of Transportation. Too many legs and stop signs impede efficient traffic flow.

The first Lake County roundabout debuted in late 2010 at Everett and Riverwoods roads in Lincolnshire. Two were built on Hunt Club Road in Old Mill Creek in mid-2011 and a fourth opened on Monaville Road at Cedar Lake Road near Lake Villa in mid-2013.

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