Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday announced plans for the $475 million construction of Chicago's notoriously congested Circle Interchange.
The project, described by Quinn as "the state’s biggest and one of our most important," is expected to last four years and aims to reduce traffic delays by 50 percent and save 1.6 million gallons of gas per year.
“Not only will this endeavor create thousands of jobs for Illinois workers, the new Circle Interchange will help local businesses and industry move products, and drivers will reduce the time they spend in their cars each day," Quinn said.
Construction starts in two weeks beginning with the Peoria Street bridge.
The Illinois Department of Transportation plans to reconstruct the entire interchange where the Dan Ryan, Eisenhower, and Kennedy Expressways and the Congress Parkway intersect. More than 400,000 vehicles use the interchange each day.
Last year the expressway intersection was ranked the worst bottle-neck in the country for trucks and one of the worst for cars by a study of the 250 most-congested highway locations. It found trucks traveled an average of 29 mph through the interchange, and between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., that speed dropped to 15 mph.
Quinn said transportation planners hope the interchange's improvements will save drivers five million hours annually.
“We are excited to begin work on this very important project, one that will keep our region and our economy moving,” IDOT Secretary Ann L. Schneider said. “More than 400,000 vehicles pass through the Circle Interchange each day, making it a vital regional and local hub for commuters, businesses and freight movement.”
Thousands will be affected during construction. The end result, Quinn said, will be a minimum of four lanes in each direction on I-90/94 at the I-290/Congress Parkway, two lanes on the “north-to-west” and “east-to north” ramps to improve safety and mobility, and local access lanes for both northbound and southbound I-90/94.
Ramps also will be reconfigured for a safer, more efficient traffic flow.
IDOT this summer considered changing plans for the interchange's renovations after neighbors complained proposed ramps would be too close to their windows.
Some in Greektown also have complained it will be an eyesore that will cut the neighborhood off from the rest of the city and hurt businesses and restaurants.