By Kate Jacobson, Chicago Tribune reporter
3:08 PM EDT, July 16, 2013
Planners hope that pedestrians and bikers in Libertyville will have an easier time crossing Milwaukee Avenue and accessing other path networks in the area as part of a $23 million project by the Illinois Department of Transportation on the road.
The project calls for widening Milwaukee Avenue in Libertyville, and has been underway for almost a year. The latest installment includes seven, 20-foot-wide by 14-feet-tall concrete sections that will build a tunnel south of Casey Road and connect biking paths on both sides of Milwaukee Avenue. Construction on those tunnels began last week.
Crews installed the tunnel segments on the southbound lanes of the road, and expect to start on the north bound lanes later this month, according to IDOT spokeswoman Jae Miller.
The new pedestrian path is a half-mile trail connecting the Libertyville Township bike trail on the west and the Des Plaines River trail. On the east, the path would access trails at the Independence Grove Forest Preserve.
Miller said the project is designed in three phases, and crews are about 50 percent finished with the first phase. She said stage-two work will begin sometime later this month. The entire project is expected to be completed by January 2014, she said.
The project is being paid for by the Lake County Department of Transportation, and is being constructed by IDOT. Both groups worked in conjunction with the Lake County Forest Preserve District to draft plans for the pedestrian and bicycle tunnels.
John Nelson, engineering manager for the Lake County Forest Preserve District, said all three entities have discussed connecting the existing bike path in Libertyville to the Des Plaines and Grayslake trails for years. He said residents have expressed a desire for easier mobility in the area when they're using their bicycles.
He said people also have shared some safety concerns about accessing the trails near the roadway, so the organizations teamed up to find a safer solution.
"(Milwaukee Avenue) was a two-lane road and there were no safe crossings," he said. "It will make it a lot easier and safer for those people to get over to the Des Plaines River Trial and to downtown Libertyville."
Lake County Assistant Engineer Al Giertych said transportation officials have reviewed ways to incorporate better bike networks into large infrastructure projects.
"Part of the long-term strategy with the bike network is to be able to in connect these paths so you can travel around the county," he said. "That inter-connectivity is what's important to add value to the network."
Nelson predicts the path will be completed sometime later this year, but said it won't be open for use until early 2014 at the earliest.
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