Christmas came early for the estimated 60,000 commuters who use Upper and Lower Wacker Drive as a time-saving shortcut in Chicago's Loop every day.
After years of construction, the $300 million Revive Wacker Drive project concluded Friday.
"It's a very happy day for all of us," said Daniel Burke, chief engineer for the Chicago Department of Transportation. "I'm glad to report we were both on time and on budget. It couldn't have gone off more smoothly, which is very fortunate. It's a credit to everyone who worked on the project."
CDOT crews have been working on Upper and Lower Wacker since April of 2010. The project is the first major upgrade since the lower viaduct was built in the 1950s.
"One of the things you'll notice is it's much brighter down there. We also improved the service lanes," Burke said. "All those zero-clearance merges that all Chicago drivers remember are a thing of the past. Those are gone."
The viaduct structure itself was completely replaced during construction and the vertical clearance was increased by a foot. CDOT says there is improved lighting along Lower Wacker, as well as better ventilation and safer, separated lanes for the countless service vehicles that use the route.
The access ramps also were rebuilt, and Upper Wacker was improved from Randolph to Congress, with landscaped medians, planters and decorative lighting.
For those who need to access their offices in the central business district from the expressways at the Circle Interchange, the completion will make their lives a lot easier. Lower Wacker is also a key short cut from the Circle to Lake Shore Drive.