Lake County Motorist

Suburban Chicagoland commuter and motorist weblog

Accidents spur changes on Edens extension

The Edens Spur has seen a lot of traffic accidents over the past few weeks. Now, in an effort to increase safety during this construction season, IDOT has reconfigured the spur in an effort to reduce crashes.

I was in the area on June 5, stuck in traffic on the surface streets, when three helicopters hovering over the Spur encouraged us to reroute even before noticing traffic being forced off the highway at Waukegan Road. I was also in the area June 13, when the wail of emergency vehicles heading to the accident around lunchtime convinced me that something severe had happened.

Commenters to the Chicago Tribune story offer, as usual, a melange of insight, knee-jerk same-old-same-oldisms, and a few good ideas for how to fix the Spur and its eastbound single-lane merge onto the Edens. I especially like the idea of taking the U.S. 41 merge down from three lanes to two, providing more room for the interstate folks to merge. As commenters note, 41 rarely has enough traffic to require three lanes at this point. If southbound 41 is backed up, it’s because the Edens itself is backed up. Furthermore, the Spur’s bridge already has enough room to support two lanes.

Hey IDOT: Any ideas on how to permanently fix the Spur?

Filed under: Commuting,

Best local government websites for commuters

There are over 50 communities in Lake County. As the demographics of each community varies wildly, so does the quality of each town’s website.

I checked out the web sites from a commuter’s point of view. Namely, I looked for the following:

  • Does the community’s website have a section dedicated to its road maintenance program (if it has one)? Usually, Public Works assumes this role.
  • Is road construction information easy to find on the community’s website?
  • Does the community provide electronic updates to residents regarding road maintenance, via the website, email or automated phone messages?
  • Is the community’s road maintenance web page updated regularly?
  • Does the community’s website provide exceptional convenience to residents who have road maintenance concerns?

Admittedly, there is variation amongst communities regarding the amount of road construction performed. It’s not fully clear to me as to which communities don’t handle road construction at all. Perhaps reader insight can help clarify these things.

I also emphasize that this is not a review of “Best Overall Community Websites.” I tried to focus primarily on the motorist/commuter features.

With that said, here are my picks for Lake County’s most informative community websites for motorists and commuters:

9. Highland Park (cityhpil.com)

Progress-oriented: Per Highland Park’s website, “In Fiscal Year 2006, the City launched a five year program to upgrade City streets. ” The City developed a Pavement Condition Index and assigned a rating to each city street. It sounds like an ambitious plan, and this Lake County Motorist is eager to see how it plays out. The web page hasn’t been updated since 2007.

The city provides a Capital Improvement Project web page listing planned roadwork projects, although it too hasn’t been updated since 2007.

Parking information is provided across numerous PDFs – too many PDFs, in my humble opinion.

Highland Park also has an online pothole reporting form, which I pointed out in a February 2008 post.

Cons: Roadwork web pages haven’t been updated in months. No detailed (and current) construction schedule provided – if it does exist on the site, I didn’t find it.

 

8. Lake Barrington (lakebarrington.org)

Many of Lake Barrington’s road services are provided by Cuba Township. However, the Village posted its Pavement Management Program map [PDF format] on its own website. There are no timelines provided, but it’s a start.

Cons: No roadwork timelines provided.

 

7. Vernon Hills (vernonhills.org)

Winter detail: Vernon Hills’ website includes the village’s snow and ice removal plan, presented as a massive 19MB PDF. I applaud the Village for providing such a detailed document to the public, but it would be nice if an abridged version were also available for download.

The Traffic Information Page provides helpful information about village traffic laws as well as educational resources. Vernon Hills even offers online bicycle registration!

Cons: I didn’t find a singular resource for roadwork updates on the site. No online parking ticket payment system.

 

6. Libertyville (libertyville.com)

Better in winter: Libertyville’s website didn’t appear to list any construction updates, but the site lists comprehensive information regarding snow plowing routes and timing. The site lists the specific streets the Village is responsible for plowing, comprising one of the most detailed lists of its kind among the community websites (Zion also provides a similarly detailed street name list).

Cons: No roadwork updates. No online parking ticket payment system.

 

5. Wauconda (wauconda-il.gov)

Wauconda publishes infrastructure construction updates to a dedicated section of its website. Projects are grouped as Approved or Planned. Road projects are a part of, but not the only component of, these lists.

 

4. Grayslake (villageofgrayslake.com)

Convenience for residents: Residents can file requests for many village services online, including pothole patching, street light repair, and restoration requests. Users can even request new street signs and (presumably) traffic signals online.

Grayslake accepts online payments for parking fines.

Cons: Grayslake’s Construction Updates web page provides only one-liner project descriptions and updates regarding village construction, including roadwork. I would like to see more comprehensive information provided on this page, such as project start date and end date. The web page directs readers to file a request for service to obtain more details – not very user-friendly for non-residents (or is that the point?)

 

3. Round Lake (eroundlake.com)

Ease of use: Round Lake’s Public Works web page includes construction project updates. As of 6/17/08, there is only one pending project listed, but once more projects are added you’ll find them listed here.

Residents may also submit requests for service via an online form.

Cons: No online parking ticket payment system.

 

2. Gurnee (gurnee.il.us)

Keeping residents informed: Gurnee’s frequently-updated website alerts readers to street sweeping schedules and snow plowing/road salting status.

Gurnee also provides comprehensive road construction updates along with a detailed project list. Users can sign up for Construction and Development e-newsletters via the village’s list-serv.

Gurnee also accepts online payments for parking fines.

Cons: No firm dates published yet for projects slated to begin “soon” such as Washington Street construction (which was delayed due to ongoing construction on the Route 120 bridge over I-94) and the Grand Avenue resurfacing. However, this is not a major “con”. The lack of firm dates is understandable, because some of these projects depend on other roadwork to be completed first.

 

1. Deerfield (deerfield-il.org)

Dig those construction updates: Hats off to Deerfield for posting comprehensive roadwork updates on the village’s website. The updates include a weekly Construction Forecast listing the work plans by-day, by-street. The village lists projects for which they are responsible, as well as those under other jurisdiction such as the ISTHA and the County.

The parking permit web page lists village parking fees for the Metra commuter lot.

Cons: The roadwork information is presented on a single, looooong web page. Navigation could be improved to make it faster and easier to find information about a specific road or project.

 

Honorable Mention: Zion (cityofzion.com)

No construction updates, but Zion lists every street that it plows during winter. Zion also has its own unique transportation feature – the Beeline Trolley. The trolley’s schedule is posted on the city’s website.

Filed under: Road Conditions, , , , , , , , , ,

Why don’t you take the train?

Hunting for parking at a Metra rail station and boarding the ever-more-crowded trains can make one feel that everyone is taking Metra these days.

But a look at the vehicle-clogged roads seems to tell otherwise. Indeed, several of my associates have increased their rail ridership recently, but others have not.

Metra’s commercials encourage “If Metra’s right for you,” perhaps you should consider the train for your next commute. Certainly many commuters take Metra up on their offer, with many more hopping aboard as gas prices have climbed. Metra even added capacity on key lines to keep up with demand.

So, do you take the train or bus? And if not, why not?

I take Metra whenever I can. For me, riding the train is less stressful than driving. The train is reliable, and I’m able to work during my commute. With gas at $3.80 a gallon even in the suburbs, Metra becomes a more attractive commuting option every day.

But sometimes, I drive to work instead of taking the train. This can continue for days at a time. If I’m not on the train, it could be for one of the following reasons/excuses:

  • I elected to grab another twenty winks, thereby delaying my exit and I thus missed the train.
  • I was unable to find parking at the station (see Excuse #1).
  • I had to work later than the last shuttle bus would’ve been able to get me to the station, and I didn’t want to pay for a taxi or beg someone for a ride.
  • I have errands to run after work, including car repair or maintenance appointments.

Many of my motoring associates would love to take Metra to work, but matters of convenience or lack thereof stand in the way. According to USA Today, fewer than 20% of U.S. households have easy access to mass transit.

A few reasons cited by those who are not on board:

  • Train schedule does not work with their work schedule, due to arrival/departure times or train frequency.
  • Total commute time would be longer than with driving (cited for those who do not live or work near Metra stations).
  • Can’t get from home to train due to distance and lack of a vehicle.
  • Can’t get from the train station to the workplace, again due to distance and lack of connecting transportation.
  • Insufficient time to pick up children from daycare without incurring tardiness fees.
  • The person prefers the autonomy of driving their own car.
  • Claustrophobia
  • Train is too crowded

Any others? Has your use of mass transit changed due to gas prices, environmental concerns, a broken-down car or any other reason?

Also see:

Why people in Portland, ME didn’t take the bus.

Why people on the City-Data forums don’t take mass transit.

On Choosing Between Mass Transit and Car.

You may have heard: Half of Chicago area employees say they would use mass transit if their employers subsidize it, as is suggested by the Commuter Act.

Pace transit sees highest usage in 50 years [PDF] ( feature article in the agency’s Rider Report newsletter)

Baltimore residents get on board.

Filed under: Mass Transit, ,

Road Week Ahead: June 9 – June 13

Here’s what’s on tap for Lake County commuters this week.

Monday’s temporary lane closures on the North Tri-State Tollway:

  • One lane will be closed in each direction between Route 173 and Stearns School Road from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • One southbound lane will be closed between Route 137 and Stearns School Road overnight. The lane will reopen by 5 a.m. Tuesday.

Stay up-to-date with the Lake County DOT roadwork update report and Illinois DOT construction update report.

Interstate 94 weather report: It’s storming heavily as I write this, and more storms are on the way Monday. We’ll dry out Tuesday through Thursday, with more storms on Friday.

Metra parking woes in Round Lake will get worse before they get better, as up to one-third of existing spaces will be taken out of commission during parking lot construction and expansion. Local riders may wish to start making plans now for alternate stations or ever-earlier departures.

Got a road tip? Click here to send it (opens in a new window).

Filed under: Commuting, ,

48 roadwork projects get greenlighted in Lake County

Lake County is kicking 48 roadwork projects into gear. Funding will come from the quarter-cent transportation tax approved during the mass transit “doomsday” crisis of Winter ’08. Included are several key projects County residents have been eagerly anticipating. A few thoughts on those with which I am familiar:

1) Widening of Route 21 from 137 to Route 120 in Libertyville and Gurnee 

This is a major southbound bottleneck during the morning commute. Glad to see it’s on the list.

2) Widening of Routes 60, 60/83 and 45 in the Mundelein and Vernon Hills area

Yes! What a bottleneck. Route 68/83 even made my list of the ten worst Lake County backups (as the “Route 83 Rather-Not”).

3) Extension of Cedar Lake Road from Route 120 to Route 60 in Round Lake

This appears to have been the plan for a while, so let’s go for it!

4) Widening of Delany Road from Tanahill Drive to York House Road

The Delaney morning delay is awful, and the left-turn signal onto U.S. Route 41 never seems to last long enough. Widening is great, but can something be done about this intersection?

5) Widening of Washington Street from Hunt Club Road to Cemetery Road in Gurnee

Also much needed. Washington needs all the capacity it can get.

I haven’t experienced rush hour at the “Millburn Strangler” on Route 45, but having driven in the area I can understand how cars could stack up there.

6) Widening of Washington Street from Lake Street to Hainesville Road in Grayslake

Currently, traffic narrows from two lanes to one west of Lake Street, right before reaching the Metra tracks and Washington Street Metra station. It’s an evening commute bottleneck.

Projects about which I’m not so sure:

Intersection expansion and improvement at Wadsworth Road and Route 41 in Wadsworth. This one can be congested westbound during the morning rush if a train interferes, but there are much more congested intersections than this one; how’d it make the list?

Not sure if an underpass at Fairfield, Route 134 and the Metra tracks in Round Lake is as traffic-essential as the other projects.

The News Swami has a witty take on the whole mess of affairs, along with suggestions as to what projects should be added to the list. I heard a rumor that the repaving of the dark side of the moon – I mean, Grand Avenue near Gurnee Mills – has been given a “go”, but haven’t a link to share to prove it.

Filed under: Congestion Relief, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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