Editorial: Pack patience for the start of road construction season
Winter couldn't end soon enough, but with its conclusion comes the start of the region's second season -- road construction.
Drivers will face three certainties in the next seven months: There are a lot of road work projects; they will cause delays and travel problems; and, a healthy dose of patience will be needed.
Last week, our Marni Pyke's "The Suburbs In Transit" column outlined several of the most high-profile projects planned by the Illinois tollway and the Illinois Department of Transportation as those agencies kick off the construction season with what she termed "a mother lode of cement trucks and bulldozers." The list includes hot spots you'd be wise to avoid, including the Jane Byrne Interchange reconstruction in Chicago, rebuilding and widening the central Tri-State Tollway south of Rosemont, the Veterans Tollway (I-355) rebuild near Glen Ellyn and rebuilding I-294 at the Mile Long Bridge.
There's also plenty of work on other roads throughout the suburbs, including: Route 72 resurfacing in Rosemont and Des Plaines, and Palatine Road repairs in Palatine and Prospect Heights in Cook County; widening on Randall Road at Stearns Road near South Elgin, and the Fabyan Parkway and Kirk Road intersection rebuild in Batavia; resurfacing on Roosevelt Road between Elmhurst and Lombard, and Route 59 road construction in Bartlett in DuPage County; and Quentin Road widening in Kildeer and Lake Zurich, and reconstruction on Wilson Road at Nippersink Road in Round Lake in Lake County.
The work is on routes we'll take to Chicago to see baseball games, theater and concerts. They are roads we drive to and from work, to shop and to visit friends and relatives. They are paths we'll follow to get out of town and to just goof off.
But the inconvenience of trying to get from here to there is only part of what's at stake. The advent of construction zones must also trigger drivers' heightened sense of caution to watch for reduced speed limits, to pay attention to changing lane configurations and to always be on the lookout for workers trying to do their jobs under dangerous conditions framed by tight spaces, speeding cars and trucks and frustrated drivers.
What happens when caution evaporates in the hot summer sun is sobering. IDOT says that since 2002, 521 people have been killed in work zones in Illinois, including 18 in 2018; another 33 construction workers died on state roads during that period.
Government officials have a role to play as well in making sure signage is clear and concise so drivers are aware of what's going on ahead and around them.
Take a breath, plan ahead, look for alternate routes and leave extra time. Road construction happens every year. We'll get through it.