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Winnetka’s Willow Road to be Completely Reconstructed

Not only will Willow Road be widened in Northfield, but Winnetka is also planning a major change east of Forestway Drive.

While Willow Road in Northfield is , Winnetka is also planning a major facelift for the road east of Forestway Drive.

Village officials, joined by members of Civiltech Engineering Inc., held their second public hearing at the Winnetka Village Yards Wednesday evening to present plans to completely reconstruct Willow Road between Forestway Drive and Provident Avenue. Their first public hearing regarding the project was held .

According to Mary Young, a director with Civiltech, the almost $6.2 million project is completely unrelated to the Illinois Department of Transportation’s plan to widen Willow Road in Northfield.

“The Northfield project is something that the IDOT is doing, but this project is something the Village (of Winnetka) brought up,” Young explained. “It’s not some secret agenda from IDOT.”

Some of the features of Winnetka’s plan to reconstruct Willow Road include:

  • The road will not just be repaved, but completely reconstructed
  • New traffic signals at Willow Road and Forestway Drive
  • Eastbound left turn lane at Willow Road and Forestway Drive
  • Left and right turn lanes at Willow Road and Hibbard Road
  • Eastbound right turn lane at Willow Road and Glendale Avenue for Crow Island School
  • A bike path along the west side of Forestway Drive to complete the existing trail network
  • New crosswalk on the west leg of Willow Road at Forestway Drive
  • New crosswalk on the west leg of Willow Road and north leg of Hibbard Road at the intersection
  • Improve roadway slope and drainage

The group says they’ve been researching and studying the roadway since 2008, including the amount of time cars wait at intersections and the number of accidents that occurred over a three year period.

"The first phase is utilizing federal funding. The second stage, there is no funding identified. I don’t think the village expects funding.”

The project is currently split up into two stages. The first stage will include reconstruction of the Forestway Drive intersection, costing $2 million including engineering fees. However, Winnetka recently secured federal funding for that stage.

However, the second stage includes reconstructing the Hibbard Road intersection and Willow Road to down to Provident Avenue. That will cost more than $4 million and doesn’t have any outside funding.

“This project schedule really only covers the first phase of the project,” said Sven Zimdahl of Civiltech. “Phase two will be conducted in conjunction with … The first phase is utilizing federal funding. The second stage, there is no funding identified. I don’t think the village expects funding.”

Winnetka Takes Control

While federal transportation funds cover the first stage of the project, Winnetka officials have an idea of their sleeves for the second stage.

The village is hoping to take jurisdictional control of Willow Road from the IDOT, meaning they would not only have control to make future changes to the road, but would bear future responsibilities for the road’s maintenance. When asking for control, Winnetka also plans to ask for additional funding. 

“We all know the state’s not in a great state, but IDOT continues to fund projects for jurisdictional transfers,” said Senior Project Manger Bob Andres. “There should be a very small amount of maintenance after the road is completely reconstructed… and IDOT has a very different level of maintenance.

“Once the jurisdictional transfer happens, the state is out,” Andres continued. “You get a better road, a quieter road. It’s going to be maintained to the village’s standards rather than the IDOT’s standards… There are a lot of benefits to the community.”

“It’s nice to look forward and be forward thinking, but I don’t think we should invest a lot of money in something that might happen 20 to 30 years from now.”

However, some residents at the public hearing thought reconstruction of the Hibbard Road intersection to be a complete waste of money. Howard Pizer has lived in Winnetka for 17 years, and he says he’s never had a problem with the intersection.

“Listening to what you presented, the fact that there was five accidents in just three years, I question how much of a problem there really is,” Pizer said. “It’s nice to look forward and be forward thinking, but I don’t think we should invest a lot of money in something that might happen 20 to 30 years from now.”

However, Andres says it’s less about the car accidents and more about the projected traffic. The time cars wait to move through the intersection at Hibbard and Willow is expected to double in just 20 years, according to Civiltech’s study. 

“At Hibbard, there’s not a safety problem, but there is a congestion problem,” Andres said. “This will flow more efficiently and you’ll get less idling cars… This is part of a regional plan. For transportation in this region, we have to look forward 20 years.”

Phase one of the project, which includes finalizing the plans for Willow Road, will be completed in Jan. 2013. The second phase, including state and federal approval and the acquisition of small strips of land for the intersections, will be completed in 2014. Construction of phase one is expected to begin in 2014 and 2015.

new trier mom August 30, 2012 at 05:50 PM
sounds like a very clever and proactive way to keep IDOT from turning Winnetka's part of Willow into a 'super-highway' like they did in Northfield!
In The Know August 30, 2012 at 11:31 PM
If Willow Road in Northfield is a "super highway" then Northfield is a "super metropolis"!
Robert Anderson September 19, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Hibbard Willow intersection has not been a problem for me the last 10 years. Forestway Drive intersection is another issue, and should be controlled ...

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