When it’s time to launch the morning commute, before you even go hunting for the car keys, it’s probably a good idea to adopt the habit of taking a few deep breaths.
While it’s still true that you can get there from here, if the usual path involves Route 59 on the border of Naperville and Aurora, there won’t be much usual about it for the next couple of years.
The Illinois Department of Transportation will kick off its $118 million upgrade of Route 59 Monday, causing drivers to find traffic slower than usual on roads leading into and including the project area, a three-mile stretch between Aurora Avenue and Ferry Road. The work is expected to wrap up sometime in 2015.
“Patience is going to be obviously the most important thing, because this isn’t going to be a short-term thing,” said Naperville Police Commander Ken Parcel, who works in the department’s traffic unit and suggests allowing extra time for the trip once the construction begins.
A little patience might be enough some days, but on others, more may be needed.
“The project has been designed with the goal of having at least two lanes open in each direction at all times,” said Jennifer Louden, project manager for the city of Naperville.
There will be exceptions to that, including next spring, when the viaduct under the Burlington Northern train tracks will be under reconstruction, and the road will be down to one lane each way. That additional slowdown is expected to last for about six months, Louden said.
Many of the 50,000 motorists who travel over the piece of state highway each day can benefit from using alternate roadways while the project continues.
“What the city wants to be sure to encourage, when people are planning alternate routes, is that they be sure to remain on arterial roads,” Louden said.
Primary recommended detours include Ogden Avenue, Raymond Drive and Eola Road.
“What we are definitely trying to discourage people from doing is choosing routes through neighborhoods,” she said.
If drivers do opt to use residential streets, Louden and Parcel said, it’s crucial that they observe posted speed limits and remain vigilant for pedestrians. The police would like to see it regarded as a last resort.
“We’re asking people not to use the neighborhoods where children will be walking to school,” said Parcel, who will have extra officers patrolling the side streets.
There will be an “official detour,” he said, initially funneling vehicles west onto New York Street, Eola Road and Diehl Road to skirt much of the work zone.
“That will actually get expanded once the overpass starts,” Parcel said, referring to the diverging diamond configuration that will be built on the bridge over Interstate 88, just south of Ferry Road, with the aim of easing congestion at the junction of the two roads. That portion of the project is scheduled to begin this fall.
Rather than navigate orange-and-white barriers and clogged streets, Louden pointed out that commuters might want to consider mass transit options. Among those are the Pace bus network, including a van pool that enables neighbors to ride together, and the Park & Ride that allows people to park their cars at St. Thomas the Apostle Church on Brookdale Road and take a bus to the Naperville Metra station east of Washington Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues.
In both the construction zone and the roads less traveled, the trip will be decidedly different from usual. Extra patrols will be assigned to Brookdale Road, Fairway Drive and the Country Lakes area during morning and afternoon rush hours, and before and after school each day, Parcel said. Officers also will also be watchful in the work area itself.
“From a police standpoint, we just want to remind motorists that there will be different rules in the construction zones,” said Parcel, whose officers will crack down on drivers using hand-held phones — not simply those text-messaging, which is illegal for all drivers in Illinois, but those holding and talking on their phones as well — in areas where there is work going on.
“As best we can, we’re going to increase the enforcement in there,” he said.
Naperville officials have expressed confidence that the highway overhaul will address one of residents’ biggest complaints: traffic congestion.
“I think the main thing is that we understand it’s going to be a challenge for everyone for two years,” Louden said. “But the improved situation will make it worth it.”
The most current information about the project can be found at www.naperville.il.us/route59expansion.aspx.