Vernon Hills outgrowing Route 45
Village officials worry about future residents of a new development being able to make left turns onto an overcrowded and narrow Route 45. | Rick Kambic ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 21, 2013 8:25AM
VERNON HILLS — With a revived residential development underway, Vernon Hills officials say an already-busy Route 45 will get more traffic.
But they are trying to mitigate the influx and said they hope state funding will become available to speed up a $73 million Illinois Department of Transportation plan to widen portions of Route 45.
This month the village board approved starting construction on the The Oaks of Vernon Hills, which will be on the site of the former Kelly’s Day Camp along Route 45. The 256-unit apartment complex will also include 48 row homes on 30 acres of land.
Officials this month made provisions for the additional traffic this will generate.
They rejected installing a traffic light at the property’s only entrance, saying it would further clog Route 45 and be potentially unsafe. That’s because a traffic study of Route 45 showed it had a high accident rate on the one-mile stretch between Milwaukee Avenue and the Writers Estates subdivision; The Oaks of Vernon Hills entrance would be within that stretch.
In addition, the study also said cars traveling west from Milwaukee to Fairway Drive, starting at 4:30 p.m., often sit through multiple light rotations before clearing the intersection.
So instead, the developer purchased a small plot of land to the east that would create a second entrance and exit. It will allow future residents to access Forest Edge Drive from Milwaukee.
Although this may ease some future traffic, Assistant Village Manager John Kalmar said congestion will grow as more development occurs along Route 45 and businesses return to Corporate Woods. Future proposals already involve building fast food restaurants or banks in front of the Oaks subdivision.
A $73 million state project is being considered to support this growth, and would widen portions of Route 45 from two lanes to four. Data has already been collected on the road and its traffic problems. Next, state engineers will determine what design elements could help. After that, priorities would be set before legislators vote on the proposed construction.
If construction is approved in the next two years, Kalmar said IDOT must then negotiate with dozens of corporations and governments to buy small chunks of land next to the road to accommodate the widening.
Currently, however, this project is not listed on IDOT’s 2013-18 highway improvement plan, even though traffic continues to increase, Kalmar said. But widening Route 45 sooner could still happen.The Transportation for Illinois Coalition, an organization that advocates on behalf of road builders and business across Illinois, is searching for projects to lobby for now that Illinois may get more transportation funding.The organization recently contacted the Lake County Municipal League for suggestions. Chris Gentes, executive director of the league, polled mayors countywide and said the Route 45 project was a top vote-getter.
Gentes said mayors typically suggest projects in their own towns — but they also recognize when their traffic problems start in other areas.