Road construction project drags on
Paul LaRoche, manager of Ace Hardware in Libertyville, said construction on Route 21 has kept some customers away. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 15, 2012 8:38AM
When construction began on Milwaukee Avenue in late March, traffic delays were minor and the flow for residents and businesses was not hugely disrupted. Nearly eight months later, the picture is looking less rosy.
The $25 million project, which was originally set to be completed by Aug. 31, 2013 is at least three months behind schedule, Libertyville Director of Public Works John Heinz said.
In April 2012, when the project was in the early phases, an IDOT spokesman said utility companies were relocating their lines so that construction could proceed. The utility companies did not move the lines in a timely manner and this was the cause of much of the delay, Heinz said.
IDOT could not be reached for comment.
Heinz stressed that IDOT is fully in charge of the project. This means local authorities have limited influence on its course. By his account, the village and the state agency have butted heads on more than one occasion, beginning with the initial planning for the project.
“In the design phases, they weren’t as accommodating as we would have liked,” Heinz said. “We also would have liked the work to be completed in one construction season.”
Ideally, construction would have been done before winter set in, when roadwork typically is halted. The village also asked IDOT to not tear up the pavement so lanes could be used during the winter. That request was denied, Heinz said.
How much worse traffic will get or how much more dangerous road conditions will be for motorists is unknown. There have already been accidents, Heinz said, mostly due to drivers not heeding the warnings to slow down before the road narrows.
Despite these problems, the relationship with IDOT has improved. Heinz said he or someone on his staff attends every weekly coordination meeting IDOT holds on the project and their concerns are heard.
Heinz praised the work of Walsh Construction, the main contractor. “They’ve been working 10-hour days and Saturdays. I applaud that effort,” he said.
Local businesses said that effort, however, doesn’t help their bottom line.
Paul Laroche, the manager of the Ace Hardware near the intersection of Routes 21 and 137, said business is down 20 to 30 percent on average. He said it’s clear people are making fewer trips to the store and carefully planning their visits around rush hour traffic.
Joanna Jones, owner of a Curves workout center not far from Ace, also reported that business is down and attendance has fallen off.