Plan to realign Cedar Lake Road through Round Lake takes a detour
Planning for a long-sought project to realign Cedar Lake Road and ease traffic woes in downtown Round Lake has been detoured due to the presence of historic properties.
The project will eliminate a curve and straighten Cedar Lake Road between Nippersink Road and Hart Road to reduce traffic delays and improve access and safety for Metra commuters, transportation officials say.
But a required shift in the alignment has broadened the scope of the $22 million project and will extend preliminary engineering until next summer. The change comes after the Illinois Department of Transportation determined that eight buildings, mostly houses, in the eastern alignment area are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Lake County transportation and village officials had been on board with a route east of the village hall on Cedar Lake Road. But the IDOT finding means the route will shift to the west of village hall, requiring new elements and additional advance work.
"One critical piece of information came to the surface after we presented the (eastern) alignment to the state historical preservation office," said Shane Schneider, director of Lake County Division of Transportation and county engineer.
"They (structures) are going to be considered historic and therefore federal and state requirements dictate that we have to avoid them at all cost," he added.
A review by the state agency is required because the county is seeking federal funding, which is administered by IDOT. The agency also is involved because the realigned Cedar Lake Road will cross Route 134, a state route.
Moving the alignment west will enlarge the project to include about two miles of road and involve other changes, like moving the Metra commuter train station platform.
The Lake County Board last week agreed to pay the engineering firm Crawford, Murphy & Tilly Inc., an additional $554,656 for extra work associated with the new alignment. The Aurora firm was hired in October 2016 for $766,446.
In initially hiring a consultant, LCDOT focused to the east on a shorter route requiring the least overall road work. The idea was to limit engineering costs and avoid having to commit to extra funding that may not have been needed to complete the preliminary study.
But it was known the preferred corridor could change when a full environmental study was done as part of the federal funding process, according to LCDOT.
The first part of the preliminary study involves screening for environmental impacts and picking a corridor.
None of the properties in the eastern corridor were listed on the National Register and therefore not identified in the cursory screening during the feasibility study, according to LCDOT.
"It's like you remodeling your kitchen -- once you get into it other things pop up," said Chuck Gleason, project manager. "The bottom line, obviously, is they didn't know what was going to come up."
The state finding meant the eastern route was out.
"This is still a very valuable project that has a lot of community and stakeholder support but we did have to make some pretty significant changes and that's the reason for the additional scope of work," Schneider reported to county officials.
That includes raising Cedar Lake Road by seven feet to meet the height of the railroad crossing and extending work along Route 134 and other roads to blend the grades.
Also, 1,500 feet of railroad siding will need to be relocated and new commuter parking built along Route 134.
"The village is thankful and excited that it's moving forward," said Round Lake village Administrator Steven Shields. "There are some major traffic issues (and) this should help tremendously."
The study is scheduled to be complete in June. A final public hearing will be held before findings are submitted to IDOT. Detailed plans would be drawn and land acquisition would follow, with construction tentatively scheduled for 2024.
The idea of straightening Cedar Lake Road first surfaced in the in the 1960s, when it was under state jurisdiction. IDOT did preliminary studies in the 1980s but plans didn't advance.
In 2012, jurisdiction was transferred to Lake County.
A feasibility study determined a project was still possible and multiple corridors listed.