Northfield approves Willow Road pact
Northfield trustees voted Tuesday on agreement with IDOT over widening Willow from two to four lanes, ending the long controversy.Mid-morning traffic along Willow Road in Northfield. | Rob Dicker~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 22, 2012 7:48PM
A decades-old debate over widening a two-lane stretch of Willow Road in Northfield may be nearing an end.
By a nearly unanimous vote, the Northfield Village Board of Trustees Tuesday approved a pact with the Illinois Department of Transportation that addresses some safety and aesthetic concerns and provides the village some legal recourse if the state doesn’t fulfill its end of the bargain.
The state construction project, which could begin next year, is aimed at easing a bottleneck some have termed the “Northfield Strangler”. The work would create a continuous four-lane road, with some left- and right-turn lanes, between I-94, that is, the Edens Expressway, and Waukegan Road.
For years, the Willow Road widening through a mostly residential section of Northfield has been fraught with controversy, pitting village against village, neighbor against neighbor and the Village of Northfield against the state.
According to Northfield officials, the IDOT pact incorporates many of the suggestions made by the 25-member Community Advisory Group and citizens during a two-year Context Sensitive Solutions process. The group included representatives from Northfield, Glenview, Northbrook and Winnetka as well as representatives at large.
Attorney Edward Gower, who negotiated the IDOT agreement on Northfield’s behalf, said the goal was to obtain an enforceable agreement that locked in the design elements and was financially beneficial to the village. Given the state’s appropriations history, village officials were concerned that the state would drop the requested design features if dollars came up short.
Under the agreement, IDOT could not advertise or put the project to bid if funding was not sufficient to complete the work in accordance with the agreement.
The state is currently designing the road widening project in preparation for putting the project to bid early next year. IDOT wanted a signed agreement from Northfield by July 1, so the terms would be included in the final design plans.
Under the agreement, each lane would be 10-feet wide or 10.5-feet where the road bends, narrower than the 11- to 12-foot lanes typical of a regional arterial roadway. The speed limit would be lowered from 35- to 30-miles per hour.
A landscaped median varying in width from 10- to 18-feet would run for most of the length of the project.
There will be six-to seven foot sidewalks along both sides of Willow Road.
Red-light cameras at the intersections of Willow and Waukegan, and Willow and Wagner Roads would be removed prior to the start of the construction, as the state requires a one-year performance evaluation after a construction project to determine if the red-lght cameras are still warranted.
As part of the road construction, the state will completely replace the Willow Road drainage system, including an over-sized main trunk sewer that will handle flows from tributaries near Sunset Ridge Road and Wagner Road, saving the village about $2.3 million.
The state also will pick up an estimated $857,000-tab to provide plantings at 12 median locations and sidewalk intersections, including specialty plantings at the “gateway” locations on the east and west ends of the corridor.
All told, the project’s costs have been estimated at $34.3 million to $34.6 million, depending on whether plain or more decorative traffic signal poles and lighting are used. In any event, the state’s share would be about $33.7 million with the village’s costs ranging from $600,000 to $1.2 million. However, the village has applied for a transportation grant that could offset $624,000 of the local costs. The village also expects a local business to pick up the $345,000 cost of a traffic signal serving its corporate campus.
In addition, the state has agreed to pay the Village of Northfield $2.5 million that may be used for stormwater and drainage improvements or other village costs associated with the project.