Winnetka-Glencoe Patch readers who responded to our unscientific poll last week regarding Northfield’s approval of widening Willow Road overwhelmingly agree with the decision.
The vote by the Village of Northfield June 18 gave the green light to an intergovernmental agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to widen Willow Road to four lanes between Waukegan Road and the Eden’s Expressway.
Currently, the 1.2 miles of roadway is two lanes wide and causes serious congestion for nearby residents and commuters, in addition to being deemed one of the most dangerous areas in Northfield.
Of the 97 people who participated in the poll which asked "Are you in Favor of Expanding Willow Road to Four Lanes," 83 percent of the voters were in favor, agreeing that the widening project is needed and will reduce congestion in the area.
Meanwhile, 16 percent of poll takers believe increasing the roadway to four lanes will "create new issues and safety concerns."
The widening of Willow Road has been an issue hitting the headlines since late 2010, and is a heavy one for Northfield residents as well as those of neighboring communities who travel the area.
Comments to articles posted on Winnetka-Glencoe Patch over the last year-and-a-half have represented a range of viewpoints.
"Liberty" responded to an April 18, 2012 article that questioned if IDOT was in sych with what the best decision would be for the area and its residents.
“I travel this stretch of the road frequently. It's dangerous traveling either east or west on Willow where it merges from two lanes to one. Some rude people don't allow vehicles to merge into the one lane. I have seen cars almost involved in a hit at both locations. I am strong proponent for a wide four lane road,” Liberty commented.
In mid-May in 2011, IDOT presented their plans and one local resident stated a three lane expansion would be better than four lanes to improve the situation.
“It is simply not Northfield's obligation nor responsibility to compromise its safety, character, property values, ecology and the way of life of its residents just so people who have no other interest than to pass through town can save a few seconds. To spend $31 million dollars of public funds on a 1.2 mile stretch of road only to create new problems at the Edens ramp when the state is essentially broke and undoubtedly has many more urgent issues elsewhere is both ludicrous and irresponsible. This is especially true when there is a previously agreed upon three lane plan that is shovel-ready and would cost less than a third as much to implement,” Don Whiteman wrote.
Warnings about decreasing safety while increasing the potential for more accidents were expressed in an article on May 12, 2011, by a consulting engineer for the Village of Northfield.
Carl Bova of Cooper Civil Engineering concluded safety improvements would be needed for wider areas on Willow Road due to increased safety concerns for motorists, pedestrians and others travelling on the stretch of road.
Bova said more lanes create more distractions.
"So, with multiple lanes, there are multiple points of conflict—be that a complicated intersection, right-turn lanes, left-turn lanes,” he said in the article. "When you approach an intersection, you're making more decisions, and you're taking in many more pieces of information," Bova added.
The expansion area is adjacent to pedestrian walkways, schools and neighborhoods.
In an article published on June 20 after the recent vote by Northfield, one person weighed in on the decision.
“It is about time. The Northfield village fathers have had their head in the sand about this for a long time and I am a Northfield resident. The present configuration is much more of a safety issue than the proposed plan,” said Jim Connors.
Trustee Brian Kozminski was the lone dissenting vote on the plan and expressed concern about the village’s financial obligation to the project.
Though Trustee Joan Frazier was one of the majority "yes" votes, she also expressed uncertainty about how the plan would ultimately work out.
“I’m not sure how this is all going to play out exactly,” Frazier said. “There are a lot of moving parts in this agreement. I’m agreeing to this, but I’m agreeing with the thought that we are agreeing to building the best possible Willow Road that we can,” she said at the meeting.
In addition to the road widening, the plan includes bridge work, sidewalks and other aesthetic improvements to the area. It is expected to begin in the spring of 2013 and will cost Northfield $1.3 million, while the state's price tag will be $33.7 million.