Westgate open to traffic

Final tinkering on Marion nearly complete

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By MARTY STEMPNIAK

The loose ends are starting to come together on the new Marion Street.

Westgate, the final arm of the restreeting project, opened to traffic shortly after New Year's, and work on the fountain on Marion is scheduled to begin this week, Village Engineer Jim Budrick said. Workers are starting to install the granite and should be putting on the final additions next week. However, the village won't turn on the fountain until cold weather subsides in the spring.

The irrigation system, which takes rainwater runoff and recycles it for use on the landscaping on Marion is in place and just needs to run through some final tests, Budrick said.

On the heated sidewalks, the village has already dug up and restored 150 feet of a nearby alley to lay conduits to reach a power generator that can supply the needed juice. Commonwealth Edison needs to upgrade its transformers and hook up the power, which should start tonight. The operation should take about 16 hours, which the village expects to wrap up by Friday morning, Budrick said.

The sidewalks have been linked to a temporary generator in a trailer for the past six weeks. It's costing the village about $3,000 per week to power the sidewalks using the generator. ComEd has indicated it will help cover those costs, Budrick said.

Drivers will soon be allowed to drive north on Marion past Lake, but crews still need to do some minor work to allow the pass-through. The village board approved the change last week. Previously, drivers could only turn east onto Lake while traveling north on Marion.

Workers need to change the traffic signal heads and programming to allow traffic to continue north, and new traffic signs need to be installed, Budrick said. Work should be completed in the next two weeks. No left turn from the northbound lane will still be enforced.

Original traffic studies said prohibiting northbound traffic would help ease congestion. However, after the street opened to traffic, observations indicated that allowing traffic to travel past the intersection wouldn't hamper the flow. Some trustees suggested allowing left turns onto Lake heading west, but that would gum up an already problematic traffic stretch between Marion and Harlem, Budrick said.

The village is leaving open the option that traffic could be returned to its original design if things don't work out.

Altogether, the Marion project is looking to end at approximately $6 million, including improvements to Lake at Marion, as budgeted, Budrick said. The money came from the downtown tax increment financing (TIF) district. Marion needed renovations, that would have cost roughly $4 million if done to a normal street. The extra $2 million was for the uptick in materials and amenities.

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