Travel through Vernon Hills will be more challenging in coming months as work begins to widen one of Lake County's busiest intersections.
Temporary signals are in place and crews are removing curb and gutter along the busy frontages of the Route 21 (Milwaukee Avenue) and Route 60 (Townline Road) ahead of rebuilding and widening the intersection.
The extensive work is part of the $200 million Mellody Farm retail center and an adjoining 260-unit apartment development that have been rising on the northeast corner since ground was broken last April.
So far, the work associated with the road project, such as stormwater upgrades and utility relocations, has been more or less out of the public eye. But the time has come to begin removing and replacing the road surface.
"They've made substantial improvements in things that people generally don't see," said David Brown, public works director and village engineer. Depending on the work being done, daily lane closures can be expected and so should delays, he said.
According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, 29,100 vehicles a day approach the intersection from the west on Route 60. With those turning from Route 21 to get to I-94 or other points, Route 60 carries 40,800 vehicles east of the intersection.
Dual turn lanes in each direction and a separate, dedicated right-turn lane onto eastbound Route 60 from northbound Route 21 are among the features planned for the revamped intersection and segments of each road leading to it.
Besides millions of square feet of commercial space, there are several large office parks in the area. Traffic congestion is why $4.4 million of a $20 million incentive the village gave Regency Centers for the Mellody Farm project is dedicated to road improvements.
"This intersection is very important to the village of Vernon Hills," Brown said. "We wanted to make sure the impacts from Mellody Farm are attenuated."
Even when the shopping areas are closed, the intersection doesn't function well, he added. Extended work hours, if needed, have been approved by the village board. Substantial completion is pegged for late September and October.
Mellody Farm construction is on schedule -- a grand opening for anchor tenants is expected in early October, according to Matt Hendy vice president and market officer for Regency.
"We are extremely sensitive to completing the roadway work as quickly as possible," Hendy said. "We understand traffic is an issue and look forward to finishing the improvements so that traffic can function at a better level than in the past."
The 272,242-square-foot shopping center is anchored by Whole Foods with REI, HomeGoods and Nordstrom Rack other announced tenants.
"They are beginning the build-out portion inside," said Mike Atkinson, the village's building commissioner.
Tenants are expected to move into the high-end The Atworth at Mellody Farm in phases with final inspections beginning in June, Atkinson said.