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Willow Road creating heavy traffic

Construction crews working on the Willow Road project dig near the bridge over the north branch of the Chicago River. | Steve Schering~Sun-Times Media
Afternoon traffic begins to back up on westbound Willow Road at Waukegan Road. | Steve Schering~Sun-Times Media
Eastbound Willow Road traffic stops at Sunset Ridge Road. Just past the intersection construction crews were busy pouring concrete for temporary lanes as part of the Willow Road construction project. | Steve Schering~Sun-Times Media
Construction equipment is ready for use just outside of Kraft Foods Headquarters on Willow Road at Three Lakes Drive. | Steve Schering~Sun-Times Media
A worker begins to pour concrete as traffic builds on Willow Road near Waukegan Road in Northfield. | Steve Schering~Sun-Times Media
Motorists on Willow Road are greeted by plenty of orange construction barrels as the two-year widening project is fully underway in Northfield. | Steve Schering~Sun-Times Media
Construction equipment and debris greet motorists at the intersection of Willow and Waukegan Roads. Motorists should expect heavy delays as the project continues. | Steve Schering~Sun-Times Media
Willow Road, a main entrance to Northfield, is in the middle of a two-year widening project. | Steve Schering~Sun-Times Media

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NORTHFIELD — The Willow Road project has been causing a lot of traffic, both on the roadway and on social media as the Village of Northfield does its best to keep motorists informed about construction.

When the project began, Northfield leaders wanted to do what they could to educate as many people as possible and staff was up to the task.

“We weren’t quite sure where people get their information these days so providing one location wasn’t sufficient,” Northfield Village Manager Stacy Sigman said. “We wanted to get the information and updates out to as many different places as possible.”

Though the project is managed by the Illinois Department of Transportation the village felt the need to take charge of community outreach and set up accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to provide construction and traffic updates. Most updates link to a blog site which contains all previous updates, construction details and project information.

Northfield also reached out to other North Shore communities to keep their residents up to date by placing links on the websites of the other villages.

According to Sigman the blog site has nearly 13,000 page views since it launched a couple months ago. The Twitter account (@WillowRoadCP) has 46 followers while the Facebook page (Willow Road Construction Project) has 141 likes, but Sigman added both pages are public which has led to a lot of views.

“There are as little as 200 people reading each post and as many as 880,” Sigman said. “The goal is to make sure people know what is going on. The sites aren’t any good unless there is reliable data out there. The numbers show it’s working.”

While the project belongs to IDOT, Northfield village staff meets with representatives from the state agency often to receive updates. Sigman said they try to post a new update to the blog every two weeks to give motorists a heads up on any lane changes or construction delays.

The blog contains contact information for IDOT and a box to submit questions which the village takes to their meetings.

Sigman said most questions and comments related to the removal of trees and perceived lack of progress on construction.

“We got questions why there wasn’t more work going on and why were there lane closures in place,” Sigman said. “There were utility conflicts so the contractor was not able to do some things. We wrote an article and IDOT had a response.”

Though the project is a few weeks behind schedule all sides are still hopeful road construction will be finished by the estimated completion date of Oct. 31, 2014.

“Utility conflicts have delayed us,” said IDOT Engineer Sal Dajani. “On some areas we are on schedule. To be on the safe side we’re about 6-8 weeks behind hoping we can catch up during the summer and fall but it’s all dependent on weather.”

While the cold weather would mean concrete and asphalt could not be used Dajani does hope storm sewer and utility work can continue this winter.

No matter how long the project runs the village plans to keep motorists informed for the length of the trip.

“Communicating effectively has been a major goal of our board,” Sigman said. “We wanted to hit as many different sources as possible and see how they work. Going through a construction process like this is never easy for residents, motorists and businesses, but information helps them plan.”

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