Work to untangle Millburn Strangler is moving along
After delays for utility relocations and weather, the solution to untangling one of Lake County's biggest traffic trouble spots is moving along.
Some of the last concrete pavement pours for the widening and relocation of Route 45 from Country Place to just north of Independence Boulevard in Old Mill Creek and Lindenhurst are scheduled for August, with the opening of the new road expected by late fall.
According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, which is managing the project, the northern two-thirds of the 7,200-foot-long bypass is essentially complete.
Some significant concrete pours are still to come on the south portion, but much of the remaining work will focus on making connections at the north and south ends to shift traffic from old Route 45 to the new pavement, said IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell. The north end of old Route 45 will be converted to a cul-de-sac, he added.
As part of the project, which is in its second construction season, Grass Lake Road has been widened and realigned to tie into Millburn Road at the existing Route 45.
"We've had a continuous flow for most of this year from Millburn Road right into Grass Lake Road, so the county is already seeing some benefits having these two roads now lining up," said Glenn Petko, engineer of construction for the Lake County Division of Transportation.
Grass Lake and Millburn roads had been 330 feet apart, and because each had traffic signals, backups ensued during peak times in the area that became known as the Millburn Strangler. County officials included it on a priority list of road projects nearly 15 years ago.
An extensive and sometimes contentious review included federally regulated environmental studies, traffic engineering studies, public input and other components, and at one point, 18 potential options to address traffic congestion.
The western bypass of Route 45 was selected as the best solution to reduce travel time, avoid the Millburn Historic District and provide trail connections. The bypass goes through the eastern part of the McDonald Woods Forest Preserve and will include a shared-use path on the west side and a sidewalk on the east side of the new road.
"For the most part, we are liking what we see," Petko said. There has been some public comment about a "bump" in the center of the new Grass Lake/Millburn intersection with Route 45, but that will be softened by grinding once all the pavement is complete, he added.
In an agreement with IDOT, the county board in 2011 appropriated a maximum of $34 million for the project. A construction bid of $15.58 million was awarded in April 2018, with the balance for design, inspection and land acquisition.
Lake County has paid about $8.8 million to date, and the current total estimated project cost is $31 million, Petko said.