IDOT planning to close Illinois, Lavoie ramps as part of Route 20 overhaul in Elgin

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The Illinois Department of Transportation gave Elgin residents a closer look this week at plans to close the Route 20 ramps at Illinois and Lavoie avenues as part of a proposed overhaul of the corridor.
At a public hearing held Thursday at the Edward Schock Centre of Elgin, IDOT officials explained why the closures are needed as they work on preliminary engineering and environmental studies for the first phase of the project. Phase II work will start later this year, with construction expected to start in 2025.
The Route 20 corridor project involves resurfacing the roadway, reconstructing the bridge over the Fox River, adding improved pedestrian and bicycle access, and making roadway safety improvements between Randall Road to Shales Parkway.
As part of the undertaking, IDOT plans to reconstruct two of the ramps along the road, said Steven Schilke, IDOT’s bureau chief of programming. The Raymond Street ramp, located on eastbound Route 20, and the Grace Street ramp, on westbound Route 20, are being rebuilt and will have longer deceleration and acceleration lanes, he said.
Elgin officials asked IDOT to take a closer look at the Illinois and Lavoie avenue ramps as part of the project and consider closing both, Public Services Director Mike Pubentz said. City officials are concerned about the number of accidents on the Illinois Avenue ramp and the confusion the Lavoie Avenue ramp seems to cause drivers, he said.
IDOT has analyzed traffic volumes and patterns, safety and crash data, environmental constraints and the impact of permanently closing both ramps as part of their recommendation to move forward with the city’s request, officials said.
The biggest issue with the Illinois Avenue ramp are the numerous accidents that have occurred there, IDOT documents said. It has a sharp curve that makes it hard for drivers to gauge the speed to safety exit compounded by drivers ignoring the posted speed limit, documents said.
IDOT has made improvements, including reducing the speed from 20 mph to 15 mph, adding more signs, refreshing pavement markings, and trimming some trees and bushes in the area, but crashes continue to occur, officials said.
And the crashes are happening despite there being only 56 vehicles using the ramp during peak morning hours and 73 during peak evening hours, data showed. Closing Illinois Avenue’s ramp shouldn’t affect Route 20 traffic because motorists can use the Grace Street ramp instead, Schilke said.
The Lavoie Avenue ramp is not greatly used either. Data shows there are 35 vehicles in the peak morning hours and 51 in the evening peak hours.
Schilke said IDOT staff determined the reconstructed ramps at Raymond and Grace streets could handle the increased traffic if the other ramps were closed. The Illinois and Lavoie ramps would remain open until reconstruction is done on the Raymond and Grace ramps.
“We are here to say we are looking at closing the roads and are taking public comment,” Schilke said. Anytime IDOT wants to permanently close a road, state law requires a public hearing and a public comment period.
At some points during the hearing, there were more IDOT officials and consultants in attendance than residents. Illinois Avenue resident Jim Koncar was one of those who wanted more information.
Koncar said he was not aware that so many accidents occurred on the ramp but if it’s means safety is increased with its closing, it would be worth the inconvenience.
IDOT is accepting comments from the public until May 16 online at idot.illinos.gov/us20ramps.html. The comments left so far, Schilke said, have all been in support of the plan.
Questions can be emailed to US20ramps@illinois.gov.
Gloria Casas is a freelance reporter for The Courier-News.

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