Oswego approves contracts for downtown Route 34 traffic signals

Village officials expect construction to begin early next year with completion by summer

In a little more than a year, pedestrians should find it safer and easier to cross busy Route 34 in downtown Oswego as a result of action taken this week by the village board.

In separate ballots May 17, the board approved contracts for the engineering and construction of traffic signals at the intersections of Washington Street at Harrison and Main streets.

Village officials expect construction on the signals to start early next year with completion by summer.

Village Administrator Dan DiSanto reminded board members that village efforts to secure the installation of the signals have long been in the works.

“This is something that’s about 25 years in the making,” DiSanto said.

Pedestrian safety along Route 34 has been a continuing concern of village officials dating back to the mid-1990s when the Illinois Department of Transportation, which owns and maintains the highway, widened it from two to four lanes to accommodate an increasing traffic volume.

Over the years, the highway has been the scene of frequent traffic accidents, near-misses and a fatal crash involving a pedestrian in 2018.

“Not many things we vote on can we say will save lives,” said DiSanto. “I believe this will save lives. This is going to be a huge safety improvement.”

In a consent agenda item, the Board unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a contract to hire the firm of Christopher B. Burke Engineering Ltd. of Rosemont at a cost not to exceed $139,835 for construction engineering services for the signals.

In a separate vote, the board unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a contract to hire H & H Electric Company of Franklin Park at a cost of $1,155,629 for the construction of the signals.

The village previously retained Burke Engineering in 2020 to prepare long-term safety improvement plans for Route 34 through the village’s downtown.

Village Trustee Tom Geist asked how firm the construction timeline was and whether it was a realistic goal to expect to have the signals completed by the summer of 2023.

Jennifer Hughes, the village’s director of public works and engineer, said the village’s initial goal was to have the signals installed by the annual Christmas Walk celebration in early December of this year.

“We were told by multiple contractors that there was no way,” Hughes said.

The contract states that the H & H Electric Company has until the end of July 2023 to complete the construction.

Hughes said after going out for bids twice with no submissions from contractors, they extended the timeframe on the third attempt to make sure they received a bid.

Hughes said the contractor ordering the materials is key to the start-up of construction since a 9 month delay in receiving the materials is expected.

“Ideally, with materials nine months out, as soon as weather breaks next winter, we will begin construction,” she said.

Hughes said that while construction could start before the end of this year, they don’t want the foundations for the signals to be installed and then have the crews walk away for months on end while they await delivery of the poles and signals.

“We’ve condensed it so that once you start you finish the project,” she said.

Village Trustee James Marter questioned the operational timing for the signals and how they will function in relation to the other existing signals on Route 34 at Route 25, Madison Street and Route 31.

Hughes said the new signals will be interconnected with the other signals and even communicate with the railroad crossing signals on Washington Street at Adams Street.

Hughes said the connections are necessary to ensure that there is adequate time to clear vehicles off the railroad tracks as trains approach and to avoid build up of traffic while they pass.

Hughes noted the new signals will also be the first traffic signals in the village run by cameras rather than sensors in the pavement.

Marter also raised questions about lane closures during construction and whether Rt. 34 would be completely closed at any time.

Hughes said there will be single lane closures throughout construction that will be a minor inconvenience, but there are no plans for the complete closure of Route 34.

The construction services agreement with Burke calls for the firm to provide pre-construction and construction observation services for the project, along with coordinating work with IDOT.

Installation of the signals comprises the second phase of a village and IDOT project to improve pedestrian safety along Route 34 through the village’s downtown, which first began in June 2019.

Hughes said since then, they have conducted a signal warrant analysis, pedestrian analysis, and a community meeting to assure IDOT that the signals were wanted by residents.

Last year, IDOT and the village completed an initial phase of safety measures that included installation of new signs and pavement markings on Route 34 between Jefferson Street (at Route 25) to Route 31.

“I’m glad to actually see this on here, because it has been a long time coming,” said Kit Kuhrt, a village trustee.