Take the ‘hidden route’ to the Lake County Fair

Thousands of extra motorists driving through an ongoing road-construction project might sound like a recipe for traffic pain, but Lake County Fair production manager John Maguire said there is one significant saving grace for visitors to the 86th annual event.

“If they can enter from Midlothian (Road) on the north, especially with the construction on Peterson Road, that’s always an easier option,” Maguire said. “It’s a little bit of a hidden route, but it’s smooth sailing.”

If heading to the fairgrounds from Route 137 and Midlothian takes motorists too far out of their way, especially those who live south of the property, the Lake County Division of Transportation is trying another approach: Opening up new pavement on Peterson that feeds more directly onto Midlothian.

“We’re going to move traffic onto the new pavement all along the fairground’s frontage,” said Glen Petko, engineer of construction for the county transportation department. “It’s going to run from Harris Road past Midlothian halfway to Route 83 on the north side of Peterson.”

Work began this spring on a $10.8 million reconstruction of Peterson from a point just west of Route 45 out to Route 83. The project calls for the roadway to be rebuilt and widened from its current two lanes to four.

Petko said planners knew all along that the project would pose specific challenges for traffic during the fair. He reported that discussions with fair officials arrived at the best-case scenario.

“In talks with the fair, they said, ‘It’s good if you can get everything moved onto the new pavement,’” he said, though he noted that east-west traffic will still be limited to one lane in each direction. “Eventually, it’s going to be two lanes in each direction, but we’re not there yet.”

The recent run of dry weather allowed crews to pour the final necessary stretches of concrete near the fairgrounds last week, and the new pavement was opened to traffic around noon on Monday, July 21.

Fair officials also point out that free park-and-ride shuttle service is also scheduled for this weekend from the Prairie Crossing Metra station parking lot just north of the fairgrounds on Midlothian. Shuttle buses will run from 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday, July 26, and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, July 27.

Parking on the fairgrounds itself is free on grass lots and $5 in the paved area on the east side. There are two access points along Midlothian, with a commercial entrance for exhibitors and other authorized traffic on Peterson.

The gates for the 86th annual Lake County Fair are set to open at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

The five-day event, which draws more than 80,000 each year to the center of the county, is held on the southwest side of Grayslake at Peterson and Midlothian roads. Festivities include livestock displays, motocross competitions and the Miss Lake County Fair Queen pageant.

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