Transportation officials on Wednesday gave the public an opportunity to weigh in on their preferred plans to redesign one of the nation's worst traffic bottlenecks.
After sorting through 30 alternative plans to alleviate congestion on the Circle Interchange, where the Dan Ryan, Eisenhower and Kennedy expressways meet, Illinois Department of Transportation officials said the proposal they're putting forth is the best.
"We did a rigorous effort in really analyzing this particular interchange," project manager Steve Schilke said at the public hearing at the Marriot Hotel at 625 S. Ashland Ave. "It is very complex. It's a system to system interchange with a lot of access points and the heart of Chicago and the heart of the region."
Included in the "preferred alternative," as DOT officials call it, are plans to widen Interstate 90/94 from three lanes to four and double the number of lanes on the two most congested ramps, northbound I-90/94 to westbound I-290 and eastbound I-290 to northbound I-90/94. Nine crossroad bridges would also be reconstructed.
IDOT said the project should decrease delays for all vehicles over the course of a day by up to 50 percent, reduce the time drivers sit in traffic by up to five million hours per year, and save 1.6 million gallons of fuel annually by reducing idle time.
If the project proceeds as IDOT officials want, those residents living in the Green Street Lofts could wind up living just 20 feet from the redesigned roadway. That's too close, according to some residents who wonder if the project is worth the money.
"I'm not convinced it's a good use of $440 million," said Peter Steinau. "We're closing 50-some schools. There's a lot of places that I think this money would be better spent."
Once started, reconstruction of the 60-year-old interchange is expected to take about four years to complete.
State and federal authorities have posted schematics and have solicited feedback on a website at CircleInterchange.org.