There’s a saying that Chicago has two seasons: winter and construction. In Deerfield, this construction season has been particularly frustrating, with three major projects near Waukegan Road intersections causing daily traffic delays.
Village, county and state planners argue the work will ultimately benefit the community significantly, and that the confluence of the projects was difficult to avoid. But many businesses in Deerfield and Bannockburn are wondering why all three areas went under the jackhammer at the same time. Some around construction hotspots have seen customer traffic decrease by nearly 25 percent.
Complicating the planning is the fact that different entities are in charge of the projects:
- The Half Day Road construction is being done by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) largely within the borders of Bannockburn.
- The Deerfield underpass project is being undertaken by village-hired contractors with the assistance of federal funding.
- The Cook County Highway Department is behind the Lake Cook Road repairs and widening.
This article--the first of three--will focus on road construction occurring in the heart of Deerfield: the underpass expansion of the Metra train tracks along Deerfield Road. Over the next few days Patch will explore the three major intersections along a 3-mile stretch of Waukegan Road that are either under or near major road construction, look at how decisions were made, find out how local businesses are managing and update readers on the anticipated completion dates.
Patch’s phone calls to the village manager’s office were directed to Robert Phillips, assistant village engineer in charge of the . Phillips said the village was already under contract with Herlihy Mid-Continent Construction Co. and had obtained federal funding for the project by the time it received news that Cook County Highway Department would be beginning its work on Lake Cook Road this summer.
The January notification “was very late notice….We were well beyond the point of [no] return by that time,” Phillips said. The Lake Cook project had been on the books for several years, but was delayed for various reasons, including work on the nearby Interstate 94 tollway.
Meantime, the IDOT project on Half Day Road, coordinated with Bannockburn, was not part of the Deerfield construction planning process, Phillips said.
Phillips said the village expects the 24-hour closure of Deerfield Road at the underpass to be lifted by the end of July. “It will mostly be open both ways,” except for temporary closures through the month of August, he said.
That will be welcome news to Ramon Abarca, owner of in Deerfield. He said business has dropped by 25-30 percent during the construction period. While traffic during nonrush hours is manageable, bottlenecks during rush hours can cause major delays. And those rush-hour periods are key to the restaurant business.
Construction has affected business “tremendously. If you’re not familiar with the area, you’re going to give up” trying to make it through the congestion and toward a specific restaurant, he said.
He said regular customers who work at business complexes on the west side of the city, such as those at Walgreens, don’t have the time to navigate the passage during their breaks. “People just don’t go to lunch altogether,” he said.
Megan Katen, manager at clothing store in Deerfield Square, said her customers have changed their shopping routines in response to the construction. However, she said she hadn’t seen a significant drop in business.
“You see a change in their patterns. They think about the time of day they’re coming here,” Katen said.
Ultimately, Deerfield will have an attractive underpass that improves traffic flow, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists, with the village successfully acquiring $2.6 million in federal funds to cover the majority of the project's costs.
Meantime, Abarca and other merchants are counting the days until the construction results in something positive for them.
The second article in this series, scheduled for Friday morning, will focus on the Half Day Road construction project, including the decision-making behind it and the anticipated completion date.