Commuters heading into downtown Chicago can expect to ride their brakes for a few years because of a spate of road work.
Starting in April, drivers coming from the west will encounter lane reductions, street closures, detours and traffic jams all before arriving to work. The Chicago Tribune's transportation critic Jon Hilkevitch predicts road construction will create a nasty bottleneck leading to the central business district for three long years.
Construction crews will resurface 27 miles of the Eisenhower Expressway, rehab Congress Parkway Bridge, beautify the Congress corridor and demolish and rebuild both levels of Wacker Drive from Congress to Randolph Street all before the end of 2012.
The heavy amount of gridlock will make drivers grit their teeth, pump their brake and question why transportation officials would do so much work at once.
It turns out they think they're doing drivers a favor.
"Our plan is to get in, get out and stay out," said Thomas Powers, acting commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation. "Rather than take 10 years to do all four projects, we get in, we use that terrible word no one wants to hear - coordination - and we deal with the traffic."
Here's a breakdown of what to expect:
- The Eisenhower Expressway will be resurfaced from the west end starting at Thorndale Avenue to the Circle Interchange. The $95 million dollar project will close one lane in each direction while replacing bridge joints and decking, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. The project is scheduled to be completed in the fall.
- The Congress Parkway Bridge, where the Ike ends, will undergo makeover. Crews will close one-half of the 54 year old bridge and shift traffic to the westbound side while the eastbound side is renovated with new steel. In 2011, crews will switch traffic to the other side to finish the bridge. The $33 million dollar project is scheduled to take two years.
- The Congress Parkway Streetscape, between Wells Street and Michigan Avenue, is getting an pedestrian and bicyclist friendly update. City officials will resurface streets, widen sidewalks and install interconnected traffic signals to improve traffic flow. The beauty comes at a price - one lane closures until 2012.
- Wacker Drive will have both levels rebuilt. The project kicking off by June will start at the Circle Interchange and progress north, according to IDOT. Officials said Upper Wacker will be closed to traffic during the construction of up to two-block long sections. Lower Wacker will be narrowed down to one lane of traffic until the $360 million project is complete in 2012.
Transportation officials offer their best advice to get to work with the least amount of stress.
"Listen to the radio on your way in , then pick your poision," Powers said.