Despite opposition, widening of Buffalo Grove Road remains in county’s plan

Some residents in neighborhoods near Buffalo Grove Road in southern Lake County have questioned the need to widen the road from two to four lanes between routes 45 and 22.
Courtesy of Lake County Division of Transportation

Pleas by residents opposed to the planned widening of Buffalo Grove Road between routes 22 and 45 in southern Lake County appear to have fallen short, as the $22 million project likely will remain in the county’s long-range transportation plan.

For more than a year, residents in the neighborhoods along the route through Vernon Hills, Prairie View and Buffalo Grove have attended public meetings and met with Lake County officials regarding the proposal.

They contend there are no issues with traffic in the area and the project is unnecessary.

But county officials say future expansion of the road was contemplated when it was designed and built in stages beginning in 1989. The pavement is at the end of its service life, and current and future traffic volumes warrant widening the road to four lanes, they say.

Opponents made perhaps their last stand at the June 26 meeting of the Lake County Board’s public works and transportation committee.

“We all live on this street and we don’t experience the heavy traffic being discussed,” resident Karyn Gitler told the committee.

“I travel this road seven to 10 times a day and the traffic is more than manageable,” added Abhay Malpani. “Look at the actual evidence and decide if you want this. We don’t want this.”

Buffalo Grove Road traffic not an issue? Residents question need to add lanes

The committee was considering the 2024-2029 Transportation Improvement Program, which includes the Buffalo Grove Road widening among 292 projects totaling $850 million in costs. The plan is required to be updated annually and approved by the full county board.

According to the Lake County Division of Transportation, deteriorating pavement, traffic levels and enhancing the nonmotorized network are driving the need for the project, tentatively scheduled for construction in 2029.

Besides two travel lanes in each direction with a center median, the plan calls for replacing the storm sewer system to better manage increasing rainfall, filling gaps in sidewalks and bike paths, enhancing safety at the CN rail crossing and installing a traffic signal and pedestrian crossing at Main Street.

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“This is the improvement we should build now for the next 30 years,” said Shane Schneider, director of transportation/county engineer.

The neighbors had an ally in county board member Sara Knizhnik, whose district includes the project area. Knizhnik said the current traffic count “just barely clears” the threshold for justifying the expansion. She asked that the project be removed from the five-year plan and its funding reallocated.

The residents’ position that the cons outweigh the pros is reasonable, she added, as the traffic threshold is a guideline rather than mandate.

Board member Marah Altenberg, whose district includes the bulk of Buffalo Grove, said she appreciates the thorough assessment of the project, but widening doesn’t seem critical at this point.

She proposed shelving the project for three years and following up with another traffic study.

However, removing it from the list would set a precedent, committee members were told.

“Pulling a project off the project listing that has been included for several years is a major thing,” said County Administrator Patrice Sutton. “There is a defined process.”

“We also have to (consider) the big picture and the flow of traffic not just in that area but throughout the county,” board member Carissa Casbon added. “You’ve earned my respect and trust,” she said of LCDOT.

The committee voted 6-1 to recommend the 2024-2029 Transportation Improvement Program. Member J. Kevin Hunter voted against it, agreeing with Knizhnik — who, like Altenberg is not a member of the committee — that the money should be spent elsewhere.

The county board’s finance committee also recommended approval of the plan, meaning a majority of the 19 county board members are in favor. The full board is expected to vote July 9.

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