Route 45 underpass will connect Raven Glen, Ethel's Woods
A $4.9 million tunnel beneath Route 45 to connect the Raven Glen and Ethel's Woods forest preserves in the Antioch area is on track to be built this fall.
The 145-foot-long tunnel just north of Miller Road and nearly a mile of related trail connections will allow walkers, bikers and equestrians to move between the two preserves and the trail systems.
The project also is regarded as a key link in the planned Millennium Trail and Greenway route along Route 45 from McDonald Woods Forest Preserve to the south and ultimately through Ethel's Woods north and east to Route 173 and the Pine Dunes Forest Preserve and beyond.
About 31 miles of the planned 41-mile Millennium Trail to link central, western and northern Lake County have been built. The forest preserve district continues to fill gaps.
The tunnel "is a really important piece of this whole thing," said Executive Director Ty Kovach.
The Lake County Forest Preserve District board on Tuesday is expected to approve construction engineering services for the long-envisioned project.
Last November, the district was notified that the project qualified for 80% federal funding under the Transportation Alternatives Program designed to support nonmotorized transportation. The estimated cost to the forest preserve district will be $1 million.
Construction is expected to begin in fall and take about a year to complete. The tunnel will be the sixth on the Millennium Trail and the longest in the forest preserve system.
The Illinois Department of Transporation is planning to widen Route 45 to four lanes, according to Randy Seebach, director of planning and land preservation.
"This one will be designed to accommodate that future road expansion," he said.
A new, milelong segment of the Millennium Trail between McDonald Woods and the tunnel will be built when Route 45 is widened, but that likely is five to seven years away, Seebach said.
In any case, the pending tunnel construction is another milestone for Ethel's Woods and district facilities in the Antioch area.
Ethel's Woods is named for Ethel Untermyer, who led the campaign in 1958 to establish the forest preserve district. The 467-acre property was acquired 20 years ago, but it remained closed to the public until last October when a parking lot and 1.5-mile looped trail with four scenic overlooks opened.
The views are of North Mill Creek, which was restored in a lengthy and complicated project that involved draining the hidden, man-made Rasmussen Lake.
"Mr. Rasmussen used to let us have hay rides back there," said forest preserve Commissioner Linda Pedersen, who has represented the Antioch area since 2008. "It's just amazing what they've done. "
Pedersen began her tenure in 2008 as voters approved allowing the district to borrow $185 million to buy land and improve facilities.
"We were very fortunate up here in the northern part of the county. We were able to purchase quite a few acres," she said.