The congestion through Deerfield on Lake Cook Road may not look much different — as the normally four-lane roadway is choked to one lane in each direction — but the extensive construction project's most difficult phase is in the rearview mirror.
In fact, despite some rather intense weather events in recent months, the $9 million project is two weeks ahead of its targeted Oct. 26 completion date, said Deerfield Project Manager John Guccione.
"We're looking like we're in good shape," Guccione said. "We will certainly beat the completion date. But at any moment that can change as a result of inclement weather. That's why we won't want to go too far out on a limb."
The project began in April, and extends along Lake Cook Road between Pine Tree and Deer Lake roads. It will result in two new left-turn lanes at Waukegan Road, 40,000 square feet of additional sidewalk, and utility and roadway improvements, among other enhancements.
Construction manager A Lamp Concrete Contractors Inc. is chasing an incentive for completing the work early — $17,500 for every day it shaves from the project. Conversely, the company would be faced with a $17,500-per-day penalty for late completion.
But don't expect the company to enjoy a major windfall as a result of the incentive, Guccione said. The contractor has been working two crews overtime — including night operations — as well as using a more expensive and faster curing concrete product in order to help expedite the project, he said.
"They're realizing that traffic is really bad and it's more cost-effective for them to work at night when their trucks could actually get the excavations and work done in a more fluid manner," Guccione said. "A lot of times we say, 'Hey, what a great incentive,' but there's a cost of doing business in terms of meeting the completion date that's already established."
The contractor has worked around rainfall and other bad weather, he added.
"They have been working through it. Even underground work has commenced in the rain," Guccione said. He recalled one occasion when the rain started to fall, and "the next thing you know it's thundering and lighting. Everybody sat in their car for 30 or 45 minutes and then everybody's back at it."
The incentive cost would be paid exclusively through the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways, which is overseeing the project.
While Guccione estimates the work is about 40 percent completed, the most difficult stage is behind construction crews.
In order to perform water main replacement under the northern lanes of the thoroughfare, traffic was reduced to one lane in each direction and directed along the southern portion of the roadway for the last several weeks as part of "Stage 2," Guccione said.
"When you're doing underground work and operating near a water main that's over 40 years old and very fragile, if the water main were to break while we were down there doing our thing we would be presenting impacts to businesses," he said.
There were minimal problems, and businesses and residents along Lake Cook Road are already receiving water through the new main.
Vehicles, too, are now driving over new concrete, as traffic was moved to the northern lanes, while crews perform sewer and drainage work before repaving the southern lanes, Guccione said.
With no water main to replace, the project should move quickly, he estimated.
Stage 3 should last five to six weeks, before the final stage begins and Lake Cook Road returns to four lanes of traffic, Guccione said. At that point, the center lane will be closed to allow crews room to construct the new center median.
For more information, or to sign up to receive project updates, visit lakecookroad.com.