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159th Street construction continues to impact Homer Glen businesses

While the effort to widen 159th Street has raised concern among previous and existing business owners in the Village of Homer Glen, the construction could be extended until mid-2019, as weather permits, officials said.

The construction project, which started in 2015, had a completion date targeted at the fall of 2018, with plans to widen the roadway from two to four lanes, relocate utilities, introduce turn lanes and install a median.

A number of delays have occurred, to date. The relocation of utilities serves as the most significant reason to halt the project, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. Other delays include the discovery of unsuitable material during excavation for the new roadway, improvements to the soil and the addition of a wall to stabilize the widened embankment.

According to IDOT, traffic counts in 2010 were between 17,500 and 22,100 vehicles per day. The expected volume for 2030 projects is projected to be between 20,000 and 33,000 vehicles per day.

The Village’s outlook remains positive.

“We’re thrilled that the state is moving forward with the expansion,” Village Manager Michael Mertens said. “It’s always a discomfort as we go through it. The widening will be benefitting residents and businesses. Obviously, no one is happy with delays with utilities, soil quality, and the state shutdown.”

The impact of construction on businesses that benefit from foot traffic, for example, serves as one of a number of concerns typically raised.

“We get two sets of resident calls dealing with access in and out of subdivisions,” Mertens said. “We worked with a construction engineer to install lights near the Twin Lakes and Oak Valley subdivisions. That helps. We get calls on the timing of lights and issues with line of sight.”

Mertens stressed that Homer Glen is taking action to address concerns.

The Village has tried to increase visibility by putting up signage along 159th Street to help motorists in identifying businesses and retailers beyond the driveway signs.

George Muersch, owner of Will-Cook Ace Hardware, acknowledged the Village’s efforts and said they have been “responsive” to concerns raised.

“I don’t know how the Village has control,” he said. “The state is running it.”

Muersch operates the store at 12121 S. 159th St. and has been in business since 1979.

He shared that he experienced issues one day when his driveway was closed off for 2.5 hours and said no one could get in or out.

The matter was later resolved, but his concerns persist.

“We’ve seen some up and down economic times like this before, but never to this extent,” Muersch said. “People say, ‘I try to avoid 159th Street construction, but I came because I need this.’”

Muersch wants the Village of Homer Glen to consider rebating the 1-percent sales tax they usually collect to help the businesses impacted by 159th Street construction.

He said it has been frustrating to see his business fall by 20 percent and stressed that if problems persist, you can only stay in business for so long.

Pick. at Garden Patch Farms, which was located along 159th Street, went out of business in October 2016.

Tony Ndoca, former part-owner of Pick. at Garden Farms, said they faced pressure on more than one level to stay open.

“Part of it was the construction,” he said. “The landlord didn’t want us to stay, and they tried to raise the rent on us.”

Mertens acknowledged the fact that roadwork will always be viewed as an inconvenience until it’s completed and said IDOT has been good about holding meetings with Village officials to keep them informed.

According to IDOT, unexpected elements to the contract added some cost, which is not uncommon, but stayed within a reasonable percentage to the original project cost.

Mertens said now that there’s a realistic time frame, there’s “light at the end of the tunnel.”

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