Update on Lake Zurich Road Realignment & Route 14/ CN Grade Separation Projects
Lake Zurich Road Realignment Project
For nearly two decades, the Village of Barrington has sought to improve traffic and pedestrian safety at the dangerous intersection of Lake Zurich Road and U.S. Route 14 (Northwest Highway). Improvements that would allow vehicles that use Lake Zurich Road, including all those who visit Citizens Park, the Journeycare Hospice Home, and/or Pepper Construction, safer access to Route 14 – the busiest highway in the Village – at the Berry Road light had been a longstanding goal of the Village. This goal was furthered in 2005 by the execution of an easement agreement with the Park District which allows the rerouting of Lake Zurich Road over the park property, and by a $500,000 commitment in 2005 from the developers of the Garlands properties toward traffic safety improvements for such a shared access intersection at Lake Zurich Road/Berry Road. Over the years, the Village of Barrington Police Department data relative to the Lake Zurich Road/Route 14 intersection has continued to confirm the safety issues present at these locations.
When the Village first initiated the federally mandated public process for the Route 14 grade separation engineering analysis in 2012, a Community Advisory Group (“CAG”) was formed consisting of local residents, business representatives, commuters, as well as representatives of Village departments, the Barrington Park District, School District 220 and the Barrington Area Library. At their first meeting, the CAG members were asked to identify a variety of issues that should be included in the study; including the impact on environmentally-sensitive areas, aesthetic concerns, flood areas, safety issues, and traffic concerns. Those CAG members overwhelmingly confirmed that the current configuration of the intersection of Lake Zurich Road and U.S. Route 14 (Northwest Highway) creates a substantial traffic safety problem. Members of the CAG were, therefore, concerned that a Route 14/CN Railroad grade separation that combines the current Lake Zurich Road/U.S. Route 14 intersection, which would be located on a curve, with a lowered and sloped roadway, with limited visibility would further exacerbate the problem.
As a result of the CAG process, the Village and its engineering consultant explored alternative alignments with additional input from the CAG members, the Illinois Department of Transportation, and the Federal Highway Administration. Those options were shared with the public at the various public information meetings held throughout the planning process for this project. At the final public open house, two options were presented for Lake Zurich Road; 1) that Lake Zurich Road remain as presently configured at the existing location, or 2) that Lake Zurich Road be reconfigured to align with the traffic signal at Berry Road in front of the Barrington Area Library. More than 500 members of the public attended that meeting with more than 400 leaving written comments regarding the project. Of those submitting written comments, 165 individuals left written comments regarding Lake Zurich Road specifically, with 88% of respondents supporting relocating Lake Zurich Road to align with Berry Road.
Among the reasons cited by those supporting the realignment were:
- Safer access to U.S. Route 14, especially for left hand turns leading to a significant reduction in accidents and severity of accidents;
- Better visibility up and down U.S. Route 14 at the new location;
- Better access to the Barrington Area Library;
- Combining Lake Zurich Road traffic with the library traffic would likely result in increased green signal time for Berry Road and the library patrons;
- Consolidation of access points along U.S. Route 14 increases traffic efficiency along the roadway.
The Village reviewed this alternative with both Barrington Park District and the Barrington Area Library staff throughout this process and after receiving and considering the public comments, both agencies concurred in writing that the project as proposed would have no significant impacts on their ability to carry out their core missions. Furthermore, it was determined that the project offers the following additional benefits to the agencies and the public at large:
- A net increase in total park land at Citizens Park after vacating the current roadway;
- Traffic signal access to and from Citizens Park;
- An increase in available parking stalls for the Barrington Area Library
- Removal of the main traffic aisle from the front of the Barrington Library;
- New handicapped parking at the library with fully accessible and safer access to and from the library building without having to cross a traffic aisle;
- Removal of storm water storage on the parking lot pavement at the Barrington Area Library;
- Full reconstruction of the library parking lot at no cost to the library district;
- Removal of diseased or dead trees on both properties at no cost to those agencies;
- A cash payment to both agencies for acquisition of the impacted land;
- New energy efficient LED lighting along Lake Zurich Road and in the library parking lot.
During 2015 and 2016, the Village worked with both the Federal Highway Administration and the Illinois Department of Transportation to ensure that funding of $5.4 million was available for full acquisition and construction phases of the project and more than $5.0 million of outside funding was secured to advance this project, which is now fully funded. The Village’s share of construction costs should be only $348,700. In early 2016, the Village began putting together the construction drawings and meeting with the affected agencies to work through land acquisition and other details. This means that implementation of the project is subject only to timing of the acquisition of the required property. Setting aside any land acquisition obstacles, the Lake Zurich Road realignment project could be improving the safety of the community with a completion date as early as fall of 2018.
The U.S. Route 14 at the CN Railroad Underpass
Once the Lake Zurich Road realignment project is completed, the underpass project of U.S. Highway Route 14 at the CN/EJ&E railroad can be completed. Since 2008, the Village has been diligently working to secure funding from both CN and the federal government for this U.S. highway project. (At present, U.S. Route 14 with its over 30,000 vehicles per day is the only federal highway in Illinois crossed by the CN/EJ&E, which does not have a grade separation.) In 2010, Barrington received a U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant of $2.8 million, which with an additional $700,000 in funds from IDOT, was used to perform the necessary Phase 1 work for the grade separation project. In August 2014, $4 million in federal STP (Surface Transportation Program) funds were allocated by our regional transportation council (Northwest and greater Chicago area communities) for land acquisition for the project. In early August 2016, IDOT announced that they would match the STP funds with another $4 million match for land acquisition, thus property owners whose land must be acquired by IDOT for this project can apply to have their properties acquired now, instead of waiting longer. Federal and state sources have already spent or committed over $17 million to this federal/ state underpass project for which an additional $45 million will be paid by federal, state, and railroad sources to complete the project going forward. The Village’s only financial contribution to this multimillion dollar project should be $403,317 budgeted for enhancements identified during the public process.
As you can see from the foregoing update, the Village has made significant progress in securing funding for these critical infrastructure projects. The Village will continue to seek funds from CN as well as work with IDOT and our federal government to gain the transportation dollars needed to complete these projects. In my October column, I will address CN’s current operations on the EJ&E rail line and what we might expect when the federal oversight of CN’s acquisition ends in January. This federal scrutiny of the acquisition includes monitoring CN’s operations on the EJ&E, and has been in place for the past eight years.