Residents weigh in on Will County’s plans to widen Laraway Road
To gather community input on future plans to widen Laraway Road from New Lenox to Frankfort, the Will County Department of Transportation hosted an open house June 27 at Hickory Creek Middle School.
It provided an opportunity for residents to meet informally with county officials to discuss the proposed improvements and get answers to questions on the preliminary engineering study of an approximate 4.5-mile stretch of roads from Cedar Road east to LaGrange Road.
“The importance of this project stems from the large growth that we had back in the early part of the 2000’s and late 1990s,” said Christina Kupowski, Phase 1 project manager with the Will County Department of Transportation. “We had that huge boom prior to 2008, and we are finally catching up to all of that growth with this improvement. So, this has really been on the county’s radar for a fairly long time.”
The Laraway Road improvements project has moved up as a priority for the county, Kupowski said. Plans consist of reconstructing the existing roadway and widening it to be two lanes in each direction with a barrier median that includes space for left turn lanes at all of the open intersections.
Improvements to the roadway will require coordination between the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Village of Frankfort, the Village of New Lenox, park districts and the Forest Preserve District of Will County.
“We’re hoping to make this a safer place for people to be able to get in and out while taking their kids to school or going grocery shopping,” Kupowski said. “Also realizing that Laraway Road is a regional road, so there is a lot of regional road traffic that utilizes Laraway.”
With Laraway Road widening, the county anticipates citing fewer types of crashes that are the most severe, which includes head-on and turning collisions.
From 2009 to 2014, a crash history report showed a total of 167 incidents transpiring along the roadway in question.
Renee Hill, of New Lenox, dropped in for the open house to learn more about the project because her backyard sits against Laraway Road. She likes the county’s plan to widen the roadway.
“It’ll make traffic flow easier, for sure,” she said. “There’s so much trucking in our area now. That road is not geared to handle the kind of trucks. It’s very difficult to get on Laraway anyway. It doesn’t have a stoplight. The traffic’s so bad.”
The county is preparing the project to be completed in phases to coincide with the federal government’s process, which includes preliminary engineering and design work.
“For a corridor like this, the county has found that we can do a corridor like this in Phase 1 a heck of a lot cheaper than breaking it up into smaller projects,” Kupowski said. “We do longer corridors, and then we break it up in Phase 2 into shorter corridors for construction. So, what’ll happen is once this preliminary phase is done, we’ll break this project up into probably four segments, and each one of those segments will then be designed and then constructed as their own separate project. So, they’ll be on their own separate track for that and that way that allows us to stagger the project, so that we do best budget the funding that we have.”
The county is equipped to fund the project at approximately $50 million with the goal of acquiring federal dollars to cover the costs.
Kupowski said she is optimistic the county will retrieve federal funding to finance the improvements.
“We have been very successful in the past for being able to receive the federal funding,” she said. “If timing is right with the calls for projects through Will County Governmental League and the timing of where we’re at in our design process, our projects have been, like I said, very successful in the past at receiving funds through that selection process. So, I’m confident that we could be successful in the future going forward with the potential for getting those funds.”
Construction along the roadway to the west could begin as early as 2025 or 2026. To the east toward LaGrange Road, work could not begin until at least 2035.
Bob Crisci, of Frankfort, said he thinks it was important for him to attend the open house.
“Our backyard goes right up against Laraway,” he said, noting that he lives in the Homestead area.
Crisci recognizes the area needs the project to advance, and said it’s a good idea.
“My thoughts would be that it’s obviously necessary,” he said. “Because of the increase in volumes of traffic, it’s necessary.”
The biggest challenge for him is hearing how the county will need to acquire 25 feet of his family’s property to proceed with the improvements, Crisci said.
“I don’t know that we would have a choice,” he said. “I guess it’s a necessary evil so to speak.”