After two years of construction, Millburn Strangler vanquished
After more than 25 years of debate, planning and construction, the oft-cursed Millburn Strangler on Route 45 in Old Mill Creek has been eliminated.
The magic moment for motorists came last week with the unannounced opening of a four-lane, 7,200-foot west bypass of the Millburn Historic District and the end of a traffic bottleneck that long frustrated drivers in north central Lake County.
Route 45 is two lanes at that point and traffic signals at the closely spaced intersections of Grass Lake Road and Millburn Road led to legendary snarls and gave rise to a memorable nickname.
Lake County officials plan an Oct. 23 grand opening for the $34 million project. The main feature is the bypass between Country Place to just north of Independence Boulevard in Old Mill Creek and Lindenhurst, but there are a number of associated improvements.
Those include 3,600 feet of road to realign and connect Grass Lake and Millburn roads at a single intersection, new sidewalks and a multiuse bike path along the entire length of both sections of new road, and a direct trail connection to the McDonald Woods Forest Preserve.
Remaining work scheduled for completion later this fall includes final pavement tie-ins at the junction of new Route 45 and old Route 45 followed by the installation of paved cul-de-sacs along the north end of old Route 45 and the western limit of old Grass Lake Road.
General cleanup and landscaping will be done this fall and any remaining restoration and landscaping will be finished in spring.
The real relief began last Friday when the bypass and realigned roads, which county officials say will dramatically improve traffic flow, were opened for public use.
"It's much better than the old Strangler, that's for sure," said Lake County Board member Dick Barr, whose district includes the area. "Everyone loves it, especially the commuters."
Barr said positive comments have outweighed the negative, although some residents along Haven Lane have concerns with the speed of vehicles on the new road close to their homes.
The posted speed limit will be 45 mph, according to Shane Schneider, director of the Lake County Division of Transportation. However, local residents have asked the Illinois Department of Transportation to lower that, so a study will be done to determine if that is warranted, he added.
Although it is a state route, county officials nearly 15 years ago put it on a priority list of road projects.
A series of sometimes contentious reviews and meetings resulted in the selection of the western bypass option and in 2011, the county appropriated a maximum of $34 million from a special regional sales tax for the project.
Current construction cost is estimated at $18.6 million, but that does not include engineering, design, inspection and land acquisition.
A companion project next year will include resurfacing Grass Lake and Millburn roads and filling in sidewalk and bike path gaps to create a continuous connection between the Sun Lake, Hastings Lake and McDonald Woods forest preserves, as well as residential neighborhoods and schools, Schneider said.