After months of study, the Illinois Department of Transportation and a community advisory group believe they have come to a solution--or at least, a compromise--for the stretch of Willow Road in Northfield that has long been a bone of contention among surrounding communities.
At a public meeting this Thursday, officials will gather input on the design the community group has settled on, which involves a complete reconstruction of a 1.2-mile strip of Willow Road in Northfield.
The plan proposes widening the road to allow two lanes of traffic in each direction (where there is now just one each way) and reducing the speed by 5 mph, to 30 mph. Lanes would be capped at 10 feet wide, in order to calm traffic, and a median would be built to provide safety islands for pedestrians as well as landscaping. Sidewalks would be added on both sides, in addition to a pedestrian crossing at Willow and Clarkson Parks.
The stretch of Willow Road under discussion has long engendered controversy in the area. In Northfield, residents worry about speeding cars and the potential for an accident involving a child on the way to school. Playing to those fears, took the lives of both drivers in a head-on collision.
Meanwhile, commuters from Northbrook and Glenview feel the two lanes create a daily nuisance as they sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic during rush hour on the way to and from the Edens Expressway.
"The big push is [for IDOT] to get as many cars through Northfield as possible,” .
But, he added, "just because you're trying to speed cars through Northfield a minute or two faster, is that worth destroying a town—the fabric, the makeup of this town?”
Since 2009, IDOT has studied two miles of Willow Road, from Waukegan Road to Interstate Highway 94, to give reports on traffic flow, preliminary engineering and the environment, with the ultimate goal of improving safety and traffic flow. In July, IDOT presented the community advisory group with several options for a redesign, including the option of making it four lanes with a median. After months of discussion, they selected that option as their preferred plan last week.
Thursday night's meeting will gather public input on the preferred plan before IDOT moves forward to seek bids and begin construction. Open to the public, the meeting takes place at New Trier High School's Northfield campus from 5 to 8 p.m. IDOT will display exhibits and host an audiovisual presentation every 20 minutes between 5 p.m. and 7:40 p.m., while officials will be on hand to answer questions and court reporters will take down public comment. Community members are also welcome to submit their thoughts on the proposal before May 3 at www.willowroadfuture.com.
Construction could begin as early as 2013, according to IDOT.
Want to read up on the ins and outs of Willow Road? Check out Patch's past coverage: