2 lanes each way to return on Cass Avenue in Darien

Favorable weather has allowed construction crews to push ahead with the reconstruction and widening of 75th Street from Adams Street to Plainfield Road in Darien, and two lanes of traffic in each direction will be restored along the adjacent section of Cass Avenue by Friday, Aug. 22, according to a DuPage County spokesman.

Work began in April on the $12.7 million project undertaken by the DuPage County Division of Transportation. The project will add a third lane of travel in each direction on 75th Street, along with additional left and right turn lanes at Cass. The work also includes reconstructing Cass from north of 75th to south of Plainfield, repaving Plainfield between 75th and Cass, modernizing traffic signals at four intersections, pouring new curbs and sidewalks, and improving the entrances to both Lace Elementary School and Eisenhower Junior High School.

The roadwork has caused monumental traffic jams throughout the spring and summer, particularly during morning and evening rush hours. While two lanes in each direction have remained open on 75th Street, traffic has been much worse on Cass, which has been restricted to a single lane each way from about 73rd Street to south of Plainfield Road since early July.

Adding to the traffic woes was a lightning strike on a traffic signal control box in the work zone about a month ago that disabled a key component. This resulted in a shorter-than-normal green light cycle for 75th Street traffic and also knocked out a motion-detecting camera sensor designed to provide a green light to oncoming traffic. This situation persisted for a couple of weeks until a replacement component was fabricated and installed.

The situation on Cass should improve dramatically this week when two lanes of travel and a center turn lane are opened, according to Johnna Kelly, public information officer for DuPage County. Traffic traveling across 75th on Plainfield has been reduced to a single lane each way since mid-June, and left turns are banned from Plainfield onto 75th Street. Crews have already installed curbs, gutters, and pavement substrate along both Cass and 75th, she said, and work is progressing steadily toward the expected completion date of Nov. 26.

All progress aside, the project can’t end quickly enough for both motorists and local merchants, who have been dealing with orange barricades, flashing yellow lights, slow-moving dump trucks and construction equipment, and clouds of dust and dirt for what seems like an eternity.

“Getting in and out of the store has been a nightmare for customers, and even for our employees,” said Ian Neitke, assistant grocery manager at Jewel-Osco, 7329 S. Cass in Darien.

He said the store has experienced a decrease in its customer count during the project, but hopes to recoup those losses and more once the improvements are completed around Thanksgiving.

Dan Gombac, Darien’s director of municipal services, said the city is receiving fewer calls from angry motorists who mistakenly believed the city is overseeing the work.

“Opening up Cass was a priority,” Gombac said, noting the paving contractor, Hodgkins-based Central Blacktop Company, Inc., faced stiff penalties for any delay in restoring two lanes each way on Cass. For 75th Street, the impact has not been that bad, certainly not as severe as on Cass, Gombac said.

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