Transportation officials and others are eager to get the ball rolling on a massive road project that could include a railroad underpass or overpass in southwestern Lake County.
The Lake County Board will vote Tuesday on a $6.17 million contract with TranSystems Corp. of Schaumburg to study potential improvements along Old McHenry and Quentin roads in the Hawthorn Woods/Lake Zurich/Kildeer area.
In what is known as Phase 1 engineering, Old McHenry Road from Abbey Glenn Drive to Bonnie Lane, and Quentin Road from Old McHenry Road to Route 22 will be evaluated for widening and reconstruction, nonmotorized connections to regional trails and destinations, and improvements at three closely spaced intersections.
The centerpiece would be an underpass or overpass at the Canadian National tracks on Old McHenry between Midlothian and Quentin roads.
A preliminary cost estimate that includes all elements of the project is $105 million. Transportation officials say they’ll have a better understanding of the scope and cost of the project after the Phase 1 study is complete.
Given the area-wide benefits and potential for federal funding, starting the process sooner rather than later has been strongly supported by county board committees that make recommendations to the full panel.
“I think everybody is looking forward to this one,” said Bill Durkin, a county board member from Waukegan and chair of the public works, planning and transportation committee.
The project has been on the to-do list due to safety and other concerns, according to Darrell Kuntz, project manager for the Lake County Division of Transporation.
There is a high traffic volume on four regional highways that converge in the study area, and 341 crashes — 96 involving injuries — were reported there in a 5-year period, he said.
Eighteen to 22 freight trains a day, some two miles long, also result in frequent delays.
“We want to look at this area and come up with some really good solutions that are a right fit,” Kuntz said.
Improved intersections at Fairfield, Midlothian and Quentin roads, as well as the railroad underpass/overpass, would upgrade the Old McHenry Road corridor. Widening Quentin Road up to five lanes would improve traffic flow and safety to the south.
The process will involve a “context sensitive design” to tailor the plan to the area and balance community needs, safety and the environment to find the best solution, Kuntz said.
That will involve input from an alphabet soup of local, state and federal agencies.
“The regulation side for us to use public money on big improvements like this is a heavy lift, but we’re all in on it and feel it’s the right type of fit for this project,” Kuntz said.
Planning would take two or three years in advance of detailed design of a preferred alternative and land acquisition. Even in the best case, construction wouldn’t begin until 2025 or 2026, Kuntz said.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us but are excited to get started,” he said.
It also will be expensive. Director of Transporation Shane Schneider said the county is covering the Phase 1 engineering cost, has secured $12 million in rail safety funds from the Illinois Commerce Commission and has another $4 million in state funding.
“That leaves around $80 million in money we’re still trying to identify to bring this all the way through construction,” Schneider said.
The Old McHenry/Quentin plan is one of three transportation projects Lake County will be submitting for consideration under the pending federal infrastructure package.
Federal funding varies, but it most commonly covers 80% of a project’s cost, with a 20% local match, according to Schneider.
Improving safety and traffic flow at railroad crossing is a priority for LCDOT and other agencies. For example, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning is leading an effort to identify priority grade crossings.
Several Lake County crossings are on the list based on traffic volume, number of trains and crash history: Route 14 in Barrington, six locations in Grayslake and Round Lake Beach, Old McHenry Road in Hawthorn Woods, Route 60/83 in Mundelein, and Route 137 in North Chicago.