Lake County leaders have decided what kind of road a new Route 120 should be, and the next step of determining the exact location is coming up fast.
Starting next week, the Route 120 Corridor Planning Council will begin studying options for the east and west ends of the 17-mile project, as well as the middle bypass section near Grayslake.
A public forum is set for April 15, as the two-year effort to reach a consensus on what the Route 120 improvement should be begins to wind down. A similar forum last fall on the type of road drew about 400 and helped shaped the opinion that it should be a four-lane boulevard with a combination of traffic signals and roundabouts at intersections.
At that next forum, three options each for the east and west ends and the middle bypass section will be available for public review, with displays and experts to answer questions.
"They'll be talking about the routing of the road - the alignment," said David Motley, head of the planning council's public information group.
The study area slices through the center of Lake County, from Route 12 in Volo east to Route 41 in Waukegan, and includes a seven-mile bypass.
The Route 120 study has proceeded as if it were a stand-alone project. However, renewed discussion of an extension of Route 53 north has become a wild card.
As presented years ago, Route 120 would have been the top of the 'T' in a Route 53 project.
The Lake County Board last Tuesday agreed to ask voters if they favored extending Route 53, and an advisory referendum will appear on the April 7 ballot.
"If you start a Route 53 discussion, I don't see how it can't impact and potentially delay the Route 120 project," said Pat Carey, newly-elected county board member and former Grayslake mayor. Carey was one of four county board members who voted against putting the Route 53 question on the ballot.
Round Lake Mayor Bill Gentes, who chairs the corridor council, said even if Route 53 is pursued, it would be 10 to 15 years before construction would begin. The earliest the Route 120 construction could begin is 2015.
"I want 120 to be built and 53 to be built, but I think we've done a good job of separating the two," Gentes said. "I don't want to put the entire road improvement process on hold across the county."
The Route 53 question will have no bearing on the Route 120 corridor group, which hopes to have its work complete and sent to the Illinois Department of Transportation by September.
At that point, IDOT would begin its own study, with the corridor consensus as a guide. How much weight the local recommendations will carry is unknown, and the character of the road could change.
"It's pretty obvious if 53 were to be built, it (Route 120) would have to be more than a four-lane roadway," said Chuck Gleason, project manager for the Lake County division of transportation. "The key thing with four lanes versus six lanes is the right-of-way. If the right of way is preserved along the whole (Route 120) corridor with at least 300 feet, which is what we're planning to do, you could easily provide a six-lane," road.