In late February, the Village of Barrington Board of Trustees approved an Intergovernmental Agreement to present to the Barrington Area Library for their consideration of a project to re-route Lake Zurich Road to intersect U.S. Route 14 (Northwest Highway) at the existing traffic signal at Berry Road in order to alleviate an extremely unsafe intersection from the community. The agreement provides that the Village will purchase 2.53 acres of land from the Barrington Area Library at the library’s appraised price, subject to IDOT concurrence (federal and state funds will cover 75% of this cost).
The Library Board is currently considering the proposal and has stated that it will vote on the proposal at a special board meeting on Monday, April 23, at 6:00 p.m. In materials to its constituents, the Library has expressed concern over certain aspects of the proposal, including safety and traffic issues relative to the new Lake Zurich Road route as well as their ability to expand in the future.
Below are important points to consider regarding the proposal:
Instead of realigning Lake Zurich Road, has the Village considered simply placing a light at the current Lake Zurich Road intersection?
Yes. There are a number of reasons why this is not a viable option. First and most simply, IDOT would not permit an additional light on Route 14 at Lake Zurich Road, due to the proximity to the Berry Road light (Library intersection). There is just not be enough physical distance between lights to meet IDOT’s regulations. Second, the visibility of such a light would be severely limited by the curve at Route 14, which also is a factor when IDOT is determining light placement. Also, IDOT has indicated that the proximity of Lake Zurich Road to the grade-level crossing of the CN railroad at Route 14 would make a traffic signal at the Lake Zurich Road/Route 14 intersection a precarious proposition.
Further, IDOT’s broader plan for that area is to construct an underpass at the CN railroad crossing, thus creating a grade separation. If Lake Zurich Road is not relocated to Berry Road as a precursor to this plan, it would likely intersect at Route 14 at a downslope without a traffic signal, continuing the safety issues that exist now and also adding the safety concern of cars coming to a stop at that intersection during winter conditions.
From a financial perspective, lowering Lake Zurich Road as a part of the underpass project and adding a light there (if IDOT would permit it) would actually cost $1 million more than the total cost of the rerouting. We have explored this option. Signals themselves cost $500,000, and there would be additional cost in retaining walls and pre-signals (if Lake Zurich Road stays where it currently is, the view of the signal would be obstructed by the rail bridge when it is constructed), plus an interconnect with the Berry Road signal (thus replacement of that signal also). In addition, lowering the road would cause it to be closed for more than a year, while the current relocation plan allows the road to stay open during the entire construction process.
Has the Village Considered Making Lake Zurich Road a Right-In, Right-Out Only Intersection?
Yes. This option has been discussed and was ultimately considered to be ineffective for several reasons. A 2015 traffic study indicated that 56% of cars turned left from Lake Zurich Road onto Route 14, with an additional 17% turning right in order to then quickly turn left onto North Avenue. Creating a right-only option at this intersection will divert significant traffic onto Route 59 as well as North Avenue for cut-through traffic. Further, once IDOT’s master plan for this area is enacted, whether the underpass is built or not, North Avenue is eventually scheduled to be closed off, forcing even more traffic onto Route 59, which is already at capacity.
According to the Barrington Police Department, motorists routinely ignore banned left turns at intersections and make left turns illegally anyway. They cite a common statistic indicating that 15% of drivers will ignore the law. This creates a traffic enforcement issue and also makes the intersection less safe for motorists at an already-unsafe intersection, as left-turners will not be expected to be pulling out into Route 14 in this manner.
What is the history of the project?
Because this has been a long-time community safety issue, the Village of Barrington has been working on the reconfiguration of this intersection for more than 20 years, dating back to the planning for the Garlands senior living facility in 1997-98. At that time, a “spine road” was proposed to take Lake Zurich Road behind the library and the Garlands to intersect at Valencia Road. Unfortunately, this plan did not come to fruition due to the Library’s preference to keep the light at Berry Road. During the past 20 years, as the area has developed (Citizens Park, Journey Care home, expansion of office space at 777 Lake Zurich Road), various actions regarding the project to re-route Lake Zurich Road to the Berry Road traffic signal have occurred, including acquiring easements from the Park District to the Village, the Library acquisition of land from Pepper Construction for future expansion, and other proactive steps. In addition, the realignment received broad community support in 2012 during the Route 14 grade separation public meetings, and the current plan (shown above) reflects improvements (roundabout, etc.) that have come about during discussions between the Library and the Village.
How much Library land is being purchased for the relocation?
The Village is proposing to purchase 2.53 acres of the Library’s land to create a re-routed Lake Zurich Road for the benefit of the greater community, as well as a stormwater detention pond that benefits both the Library and the surrounding area.
Will the project give the Library the ability to expand in the future?
Yes. The Library maintains significant acreage to its east and north that would allow for future expansion. In addition, per the proposed agreement, the Village would give “credit” to the Library for lot acreage on the purchased parcel of land for any future expansion (as if the Library still owned it) and would grant necessary variations, enabling the Library to expand as it wishes. The Village estimates that sufficient land would remain to allow a doubling of the Library building as well as a corresponding doubling of the parking lot in the future.
Does the broader Barrington community support the project?
As the Library has stated, the Library serves 14 communities over a 72-square-mile area, and it must meet the needs of all its constituents. However, high numbers of these constituents use Route 14 and Lake Zurich Road in the Village of Barrington to access the Library, especially those coming from the north. At the project’s public hearing in 2012, more than 500 community members responded regarding the project, with 88% expressing their support for the relocation of Lake Zurich Road. Homeowners associations and individuals in the nearby area have also expressed their support.
In addition, 13 additional governmental bodies with Library constituents have weighed in to support the Intergovernmental Agreement through resolution and letters: Barrington Hills, Barrington Township, Cuba Township, Deer Park, Ela Township, Fox River Grove, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, Lake Barrington, Lake Zurich, North Barrington, South Barrington, and Tower Lakes.
Would the proposed relocation create unsafe traffic conditions at the Library?
No. The Village has proposed a comprehensive plan (see above) that in fact makes the Library’s entry and exit routes as safe or more safe than the current configuration. The Library’s new entrance would occur via a small roundabout off of the much-less-traveled Lake Zurich Road, as opposed to directly from the highly trafficked Route 14. The traffic pattern would relocate the current main traffic aisle away from the Library, eliminating the need for patrons to cross heavy traffic to reach the door from the parking lot. Instead, drivers would enter the library lot from the back, not the front. In addition, the proposal would create a safer Library walkway along Route 14. Currently, the library path along Route 14 is as little as 3 feet from the curb of Northwest Highway and only 5 feet in width – this project would move it 10 feet away and widen that path to 10 feet, making it safer for pedestrians.
Would the project include full rebuilding, re-paving, and expansion of the Library’s current parking lot at no cost to the Library?
Yes. Currently, the Library is considering an $882,000 re-paving project for its parking lot. The Lake Zurich Relocation project provides for the Library to have its parking lot completely replaced through this effort at no cost to them – saving taxpayers $882,000, in addition to the dollars that the Library would receive for the land acquisition. The reconstruction would also completely eliminate the rainwater pooling on the current lot, making it safer for patrons.
Would the proposed relocation bring the Library building closer to Route 14?
The new intersection at Lake Zurich/Berry Road and Route 14 (see above) would create a right-hand turn lane on northwest-bound Route 14, which would be just 10 feet closer to the library than the current lane but will actually provide added safety for those turning right onto the new Lake Zurich Road and then into the Library at the roundabout. Importantly, this lane would be specifically created for vehicles slowing to turn, not for high-speed thru traffic as is currently the case with right-turners from Rt. 14 into the library. In addition, this new lane would likely have been required by IDOT in the future when the intersection was improved.
Would the roundabout make it more difficult to enter and exit the Library?
No. Currently the Library’s exit onto Route 14 sees numerous backups at the traffic signal at Berry Road. With the new roundabout feature, traffic will be entering and exiting onto Lake Zurich Road, which sees 10 times less traffic than the 30,000 cars per day that travel along Route 14. Roundabouts are specifically designed to keep traffic moving smoothly and seamlessly without lights, and the Library will benefit from this feature as traffic will no longer queue up at Route 14 to exit at the light. In fact, the Library requested the roundabout design, which necessitated slightly more land to be purchased than was originally proposed.
Will the Library have input over the design and construction of the project?
Yes. The Village has been working very cooperatively with the Library to design the current plan, and in fact, the Village included the roundabout feature in response to the Library’s concerns about easier entry and exit at Lake Zurich Road. The Village has offered a seat at the construction coordination meetings and IDOT has also agreed to this approach. This will ensure that the Library has as much input as possible on project implementation.
How much will the total project cost, and who is paying for it?
The estimated total cost of the relocation is expected to be $5.9 million. The Library will bear none of the cost, and in fact, will be paid its appraised price (subject to IDOT concurrence) for the 2.53 acre parcel of land required to complete the project. 75% of the project cost will be paid for by federal and state funds, with the remaining 25% paid for by budgeted Village capital improvement funds.
What happens to the funding if the Library does not act now?
Currently, this project is fully funded. However, at its regular meeting on Friday, April 6, 2018, the Northwest Council of Mayors Technical Committee (a body that allocates funding for projects from our region’s pool of dollars from the federal Surface Transportation Program) indicated that the funding currently being allocated to the Lake Zurich Road project will be redirected to another regional project outside of our community as early as next month if the Village of Barrington cannot report agreement with the Library.
Further, the Village has several opportunities in the very near term to achieve funding for the CN railroad grade separation (underpass) from various sources. There is a strong indication that if the Lake Zurich Road project does not come to fruition, the funding being sought for the underpass project will be delayed. The positive message sent about the community’s priority for safety by approval of the realignment agreement will help in achieving full funding for the underpass project sooner.
In order to not lose our funding and to achieve a much safer intersection for this community as soon as possible, the Village is ready to move forward on this project.