Drivers approaching a notorious Chicago bottleneck now face a possibly jarring digital sign.
It tells them: “5 minutes to Jane Byrne” — referring to the city’s only female mayor, who died this month.
The sign actually is telling drivers how long it will be until they will reach the junction connecting the Kennedy, Dan Ryan, and Eisenhower expressways and Congress Parkway.
That junction once was known as the Circle Interchange, but Gov. Pat Quinn renamed it the Jane Byrne Interchange earlier this year. Byrne was invited to the ceremony and reportedly enjoyed traffic reports highlighting the new name.
But the current digital sign doesn’t say “interchange” and, unlike digital road signs using just the commonly used “Kennedy” or “Eisenhower,” this sign uses both the first and last names of the former mayor.
Byrne passed away Nov. 14, at age 81.
The Illinois Department of Transportation changed the sign’s message from “5 minutes to Circle” to “5 minutes to Jane Byrne” about a week ago as “part of the conversion to rename the interchange after the former mayor,” IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said earlier this week.
IDOT is updating the system that runs the signs and “Interchange” will be added in “another month or so,” he said by email.
“We preferred to spell out ‘Jane Byrne Interchange’ but couldn’t get the old system to do it without major changes in software. We expect to have a new computer system in place in January. At that point, ‘Jane Byrne Interchange’ will be shown on the Digital Message Signs,” Tridgell explained.
The junction was consistently rated one of the worst bottlenecks in the country and typically is the scene of more than 900 crashes a year. A four-year, $425 million overhaul began last year.