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A constructiworker snakes an acetylene torch hose through dirt concrete last week during bridge constructialong Route 31 North Big Timber

A construction worker snakes an acetylene torch hose through dirt and concrete last week during bridge construction along Route 31 North of Big Timber Road in Elgin. May 15, 2013 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media.

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Updated: June 24, 2013 6:21AM

“Randall Road is not part of anyone’s Christian journey. Just avoid it.”

— Elgin churchgoer after her pastor admitted to being inspired to some not-entirely-charitable emotions during a long, long drive along a certain Kane County highway — a drive that is about to get even worse.

Everyone has heard the phrase: “Illinois has two seasons — Winter and Road Construction.”

Well, it’s not winter anymore.

Drivers already have been suffering from backups and delays in many spots around the northern Fox Valley.

But Monday was when the season that isn’t winter kicked in with a vengeance, especially for anyone trying to drive north and south through the Dundee-Carpentersville area. Work began Monday on both the bustling intersection of Routes 31 and 72 in West Dundee, and on the repaving of Randall Road all the way from Route 72 to the south entrance into Algonquin Commons shopping center.

Randall repaving

The three-mile-long Randall work will continue through about June 28, according to Kane County officials. A county press release states that “temporary lane closures Monday through Saturday will be necessary to accomplish this work. Please watch for fresh oil signs and flaggers, and reduce speed while traveling through the construction zone. Delays and increased travel times are expected during this process.”

A year of work to improve the layout and traffic signals at the crash-plagued intersection of Route 72 and Randall is wrapping up and expected to finish by the end of June.

31 and 72

The construction of intersection improvements at Route 31 (Eighth Street) and Route 72 (Main Street) in West Dundee also began Monday and continues through approximately Oct. 31.

That $3 million project, which is being managed by the Illinois Department of Transportation, includes widening of both 31 and 72 leading up to the intersection; changes to the median; and the addition of a second left-turn lane for north-, south- and westbound traffic. Also included will be curb and gutter reconstruction, new sidewalks, traffic signal improvements, lighting relocations and storm sewer improvements.

And when it’s all over, it should be easier to get through that bottleneck of an intersection.

Other Dundee work

On the other side of the Fox River, work already has been going on in East Dundee, in a job that makes it tough to negotiate the heavily used Duncan Avenue-Elgin Avenue connection between downtown Dundee and Elgin’s east side. Van Buren Street, Williams Place and Elgin Avenue are being resurfaced and having their curbs, gutters and storm sewers replaced in a project that will continue through Nov. 20.

Move a bit north, and one finds that east-side Carpentersville artery Maple Avenue also is getting the rehab treatment.

Elgin snarled

Elgin drivers may wonder what had been keeping their West Dundee neighbors’ Caterpillars inactive so long. It seems that everywhere Elginites turn, they already have been running into torn-up streets and backed-up traffic.

For example, drivers heading north along Route 31 toward the coming 31-72 mess already will have passed through a bottleneck three miles to the south in Elgin. There, IDOT contractors are replacing the west half of the bridge that carries Route 31 over the Metra railroad tracks, near the SKF plant. The bridge’s eastern half was replaced last year. Northbound drivers on 31 have to begin consolidating into one lane hundreds of feet to the south, in the area of the La Movida nightclub. The bridge work is scheduled to be done by the end of June.

Randall-Big Timber

Similarly, drivers heading north on Randall toward the coming Route 72-to-Algonquin Commons mess already will have passed through construction that began April 8 to improve the intersection of Randall with Big Timber Road in Elgin. A Kane County contractor is adding a turn lane, removing an island, installing a storm sewer, and replacing the traffic signals and street lights. Daily lane closures have been needed.

And farther south in Elgin, Kane County is resurfacing Randall from Route 20 to a quarter-mile south of College Green Drive, in a project scheduled to end June 21.

Route 20 rage

Probably the biggest single traffic aggravation in Elgin has been the continuing work where Route 20 crosses McLean Boulevard, on the city’s southwest side.

Even when there is no construction going on, this interchange has been a bottleneck offering few alternative routes that backs up traffic along both 20 and McLean. Now, in Year Three of a five-year, $45 million project, IDOT is replacing half of the bridge that carries Route 20 over McLean. The bridge’s other half will be replaced next year.

Meanwhile, down below, workers already have closed off the old connection between McLean and Weld Road, and have torn down some McLean Boulevard businesses and Sunset Park neighborhood homes as they prepare to turn the interchange into a whole different design called a “single-point urban interchange.” The new layout is calculated to require fewer red-light cycles.

A longer exit ramp from westbound Route 20 also is being built, to keep McLean-bound traffic from backing up into Route 20’s main traffic lanes.

For now, the impact on Route 20 drivers is minimal. They simply have to slow down to 45 mph and shift to one side of the bridge. But down below, the impact is not pretty. McLean traffic flow sometimes must narrow to one lane in each direction under the bridge.

Things there will grow even worse later this summer as work begins along McLean itself. Where it intersects a short distance north with Lillian Street, the boulevard will get new turn lanes, a median and a wider roadway. Lillian also will add a turn lane. Several businesses nearby will lose their parking lots and may have to go out of business.

Inside Elgin

Each year, the city of Elgin picks at least one neighborhood in which to repave or rebuild the streets, replace curbs, gutters and sidewalks as needed, and in some cases combat basement flooding and water pollution by installing separate storm sewers.

This year, the neighborhoods targeted are the West Chicago Street-Wilcox Avenue-Sheridan Street area on the city’s near-west side and the Hammond Avenue-Cookane Avenue neighborhood on the southeast side. Work will require a few blocks of West Chicago Street to be closed for awhile near Washington School.

More-modest repaving will be done along part or all of Villa Street, Varsity Drive, Maroon Drive, Summerhill Unit 5, Woodview and surrounding streets, Shiloh and surrounding streets, Thorndale Drive and Court, Crawford Road, Nolan Road, Coombs Road and Marshall Road.

Downtown, the two-year Riverside Drive project is running behind schedule because of spring flooding but is expected to be mostly done by the end of October. The former parking deck that extended over the Fox River for 1970s shoppers is being replaced by a two-lane street and a “promenade” walkway.

The city’s Central Business District Streetscape Project will continue along Spring Street and Dexter Avenue, with the installation of sidewalk pavers and plantings.

South Elgin

On South Elgin’s far-west side, IDOT will resurface McDonald Road from Robin Glen Lane to the west village border over the next four weeks.

St. Charles

In Kane County’s second-most-expensive project, work continues into the second and final year on the $40 million rehab of Route 64 on St. Charles’ east side and parts of adjoining West Chicago, from Dunham Road to Route 59. Besides adding lanes, resurfacing and upgrading traffic signals, IDOT is replacing the road’s bridge over the Union Pacific and Canadian National railroad lines. Completion is scheduled for Sept. 30.

Tollway terrors

Huntley-area drivers also will have little sympathy for their Dundee-area comrades. The addition of new westbound entrance and eastbound exit ramps from the tollway at Route 47 has been going on for well over a year and is continuing, although at least much of the work required along Route 47 itself to make the four-way interchange possible was finished last year.

Drivers who already have gotten onto the tollway also have been seeing much construction consternation, as eastbound I-90 is widened all the way from Elgin to Rockford. Closures of lanes here, there and everywhere have been commonplace for months, mostly at night, and will continue through the summer.

New roads

The Stearns Road and Red Gate Road bridges and extensions are finished, but the 2013 construction menu does include the start of two brand-new highways.

A few miles east of Elgin, the long-, long-envisioned extension of the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway to O’Hare Airport and I-294 will begin, although it won’t be totally finished until 2026. The expressway still isn’t scheduled to extend westward to Elgin at any specific date. But the eastern work eventually should relieve congestion along I-90 between Elgin and Chicago.

A few miles to the north of Elgin, work has begun on the long-discussed, two-mile, $33 million Route 31 bypass around downtown Algonquin. When it’s finished next summer, commuters will have an alternative to the rush-hour bottleneck where Route 31 crosses Route 62/Algonquin Road.

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