The traffic circle in Utica still isn’t finished – contractors will have wrap-up work into June – but the roundabout at U.S. 6 and Route 178 was activated Wednesday morning.
A few village officials couldn’t resist taking a (literal) spin.
I went through it twice so far.”— Nate Holland, Utica village trustee
“I went through it twice so far [Wednesday] without any issues,” Village Trustee Nate Holland said. “It’s a little too early to make a determination, but so far so good. The real test will be the upcoming weekends and the Burgoo Festival.”
That the circle was available for a test run came as a minor surprise. Though the Illinois Department of Transportation announced Tuesday the four-way stop would be replaced with circular traffic, IDOT had said less than 10 days ago it would be mid-May before the roundabout became fully functional.
“In order to do the work in the middle, it made sense to have traffic use the roundabout configuration,” said Nate Sell, construction engineer for IDOT. “The temporary pavement from the previous stages gives vehicles room to get around. (IDOT is) still expecting mid-to-late May to be utilizing only the new pavement.”
Though still early, Utica officials said the initial appraisals are approving.
“It looked like traffic was flowing at a steady pace,” said Mayor David Stewart. “With construction workers still working, please use caution while going through. Safety is of upmost importance. I would again like to thank IDOT for working on this project, and making this construction process go smooth. The Village looks forward to the completion.”
John Schweickert, another Utica village trustee, said most of the feedback he’s gotten has been positive, as residents had concerns about traffic backing up to Interstate 80 exit ramp in the past.
“There does seem to be some concern with the amount of semi traffic,” Schweickert said, “but as a small example I went through the temporary roundabout (Wednesday) and two semis went through without issue.
“I think it will be a big upgrade to that corner once completed.”
Another urged motorists to simply be patient.
“It’s going to take some getting used to,” said Trustee Mary Pawlak.
Last year, the $2.4 million project slid about two months schedule thanks to labor strife and a shortage of construction materials. Workers resumed construction the week of March 12 and cautioned that finishing the project by June will depend in no small part on Mother Nature.
Getting the roundabout open to through-traffic in May is critical because the volume of traffic surges as Memorial Day approaches. Visits to nearby Starved Rock State Park climb an average 43% between April and May.
For IDOT District 3 updates on Twitter, follow @IDOTDistrict3. View area construction details on IDOT’s traveler information map at www.GettingAroundIllinois.com.