Northfield approves widening Willow Road to 4 lanes

Northfield approves widening Willow Road to 4 lanes
Westbound traffic on Willow Road in Northfield is heavy this morning. Village trustees voted last night to widen a stretch of the road from two lanes to four. (Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune)

After nearly two decades of opposition,


trustees last night approved an agreement with the state to widen a stretch of Willow Road from two lanes to four.

Trustees voted 5-1 on an intergovernmental agreement with the Illinois Department of  Transportation for the estimated $34.9 million project on a 2-mile span of road between


Road and the Edens Expressway.

Northfield Village Manager Stacy Sigman said the village will not have to pay much of its $1.26 million portion, thanks to a possible state grant,


funding and expected private contributions.

A 1.2-mile portion Willow Road in Northfield is just two lanes as it cuts through the village’s downtown, adjacent to schools, parks and churches. Supporters of the widening project say rush-hour traffic causes bottlenecks. Neighbors complain that the existing road frequently sends drivers speeding through residential neighborhoods looking for alternate routes.

Northfield has opposed the widening project since it first surfaced in 1995, citing safety and quality of life concerns.

The Willow Road expansion plan includes several components Northfield requested, such as a reduced 30-miles-per-hour speed limit and narrower 10-feet-wide lanes, both aimed at increasing safety for pedestrians. The project will also include drainage work, aesthetic upgrades and updated intersection signals.

The IDOT component of the project is estimated at $33.65 million. Northfield is responsible for $1.26 million, which it expects to pay with a $345,000 private reimbursement for new traffic signals outside the


headquarters and an anticipated $624,000 Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program grant.

The remaining $294,000 in anticipated project costs could be paid through IDOT “special funding” of up to $2.5 million, Sigman said. The $2.2 million balance could be used locally for additional roadway enhancements, storm water or utility projects, she said.

Construction could begin as early as next spring and be completed by the end of 2013, save for some follow-up landscaping work, said John Baczek, project and environmental studies section chief for IDOT.