Memorial Day Travel: Worst Time to Drive, ‘Worst Corridor' to Drive in Chicago Area Revealed

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With coronavirus restrictions being eased across the United States, Illinois Tollway officials estimate that millions of travelers will use the tollway system over the Memorial Day weekend, and officials and trade groups are offering tips to make the experience of holiday travel as quick and painless as possible.

According to an email from Illinois Tollway, more than seven million vehicles are expected to hit the road between Thursday and Monday, a massive increase over what was seen during the height of the coronavirus pandemic last summer.

Even with the restrictions on construction put in place by Illinois Tollway and IDOT, trade groups are still offering tips to motorists before they hit the road this weekend.

According to AAA, the worst time for Chicago area motorists to drive will be between 2:45 and 4:45 p.m. on the Thursday prior to the Memorial Day holiday. Regular afternoon rush hour traffic, combined with an increase in the number of travelers hitting the road, could lead to serious traffic snarls throughout the region, according to data published by AAA this week.

Drivers are especially urged to “avoid evening commute times and to plan alternate routes” when plotting out their travel arrangements.

AAA also offered its evaluation of area roadways, saying that Interstate 290 west between Morgan Street and Wolf Road is the “worst corridor” to use during the holiday weekend.

In all, AAA expects that 34.4 million Americans will travel by car over Memorial Day weekend, an increase of more than 52% over 2020.

To help alleviate traffic congestion over the holiday weekend, construction activity will be restricted on many area tollways, but several work zones could still impact travel, especially on Interstate 294 and on Interstate 88. On the Tri-State Tollway, traffic is shifted between Ogden Avenue and 55th Street, and between Plainfield Road and 95th Street. Southbound traffic at Interstate 57 will also be reduced from four lanes to three due to construction work, according to officials.

On the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway, traffic is shifted in both directions between the EJ&E Railroad and Illinois Route 59.

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