Thursday, April 10, 2008

US 20 in Illinios: Elgin Construction

Image from The Daily Herald

Drivers using US Route 20 in Elgin, Illinois should prepare to deal with a mess. The Courier-News reports that US 20 and Shales Parkway will be undergoing a facelift. But, I think the story may have changed a bit since it was first released, as I just read today that a writer for The Daily Herald says “Because of a lack of a state capital budget, work on one of Elgin's most dangerous intersections will be put off for another year. Yes, Route 20 will still be a mess due to retaining wall work and bridge work over the EJ&E railway. But the most important need, reconstruction of the Route 20 intersection with Shales Parkway, has been bumped for at least another year. Meaning the city can expect its ambulances to continue making frequent visits to one of its least safe intersections.”

So if you’re planning a drive through that area, be aware that you may face construction delays or cautious driving conditions.

Shales, US 20 in for facelift

March 22, 2008

ELGIN -- Blinking signs at Shales Parkway and U.S. 20 warn motorists of long-awaited improvements coming to the dangerous, and sometimes deadly, crossroads on the city's far east side.

Two major construction projects loom. The first will begin April 1, weather permitting, said Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Claffey. The second will start in June and run through the end of construction season.

Starting April 1 continuing through Aug. 31, one lane of U.S. 20 in each direction over the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway east of the intersection will be closed for bridge repairs.

The concrete deck beams will be replaced along with the top of the bridge deck at a cost of $847,000, Claffey said.

"The bridge is deteriorating. If we don't do the rehab we would have to put weight limits on the bridge," he said.

The work is crucial to the safety of the bridge, although it will cause major congestion.

"Obviously it will cause backups in both directions," he said.

In June, IDOT workers will begin a massive $8 million improvement project at the intersection itself. Light signals will be modernized, and the intersection and all turn lanes will be widened.

"That provides additional storage for traffic that's trying to turn," Claffey said.

The changes are aimed at reducing the crash rate at that intersection, he added. Shales and 20 often appears on the Elgin Police Department's list of top 10 accident sites in the city.

Certainly a safer intersection will be appreciated by all motorists -- but getting to that point may prove painful.

"There are no designated alternative routes," Claffey said. "Avoid the area if you possibly can."

If you can't find another route, allow extra time, especially during rush hours.

There are few choices for those driving east or west between Elgin and the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway. To the north, Irving Park Road (Illinois 19) through Streamwood will meet up with the expressway in Schaumburg. To the south, West Bartlett Road, with a quick jog north in Bartlett to East North Avenue, will spill back onto U.S. 20 in Hanover Park.

Elgin Public Works Director John Loete said these much-needed but inconvenient projects are a pain, "but it feels so good when the pain stops."

Shales is not a state roadway, but IDOT workers will still do the work on that road in conjunction with the other repairs.

"At one point, we were going to have to pay a portion of the cost," Loete said, but the state will pick up the tab.

The city will have to relocate a water main that runs along 20 from the northeast corner of the intersection. The state is building a retaining wall there, where the ground drops off near Safety-Kleen Systems, Inc, he said.

Signal improvements at Shales and U.S. 20 have been on IDOT's to-do list for about eight years.

The US Route 20 Blog homepage can be found here.

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