Summer Construction Nightmare Begins

Wacker Drive, Ike and Congress Parkway Bridge all under construction simultaneously

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It may start on April Fool’s Day, but a massive Summer construction project is no laughing matter.

Lower Wacker Drive, the Eisenhower Expressway and the Congress Parkway bridge are all set to be under construction at the same time and that's bad news for drivers. 

But transportation officials say its the best way. 

“Had we staggered this project we would have been out here for 10 years working,” says Diane O’Keefe, the chief regional engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation.

IDOT is coordinating its efforts on the Eisenhower Expressway resurfacing project with the city’s Congress and Wacker projects in an effort to make all three easier on motorists.

“We know this work will cause a major inconvenience for motorists and pedestrians,” says CDOT’s Acting Commissioner Tom Powers, “but we are doing everything we can to keep those impacts to a minimal basis.” 

The $33 million Congress Bridge rehab will force all traffic into the Westbound lanes while the East side is rebuilt. There will be two lanes inbound and one lane outbound. The West side will be done next year.  About 140,000 vehicles pass over the bridge every weekday, officials said.

The 27-mile resurfacing of I-290 will only take a year, but will force lane closures on both the inbound and outbound lanes. Lanes could be further reduced for night work. 

The most ambitious project will be the complete rebuilding of upper and lower Wacker Drive. Powers describes the structure as “one gigantic bridge.” He says it will be rebuilt to match the East-West portion redone a couple of years ago. Traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction. Powers says that will allow deliveries to buildings on Wacker, but not the underground shortcuts that so many people have come to depend upon. 

Some drivers are dreading the delays the construction will cause. It’s too much at one time,” says Maurice Hendry, “it’s almost like they are trying to shut the city down.” 

IDOT says140-thousand motorists use the Congress Bridge each day and 200-thousand use the Eisenhower. To reduce delays authorities are suggesting alternatives like the Kennedy expressway and the Stevenson even Roosevelt Road. 

According to O’Keefe, here is no economic advantage to doing all the projects at the same time, the reason it’s being done is much the same reason you pull off a band-aid quickly, so it will only hurt for a short time. 

IDOT:  Interstate 290 Resurfacing Project
Wacker Drive Revival Project
Congress Parkway  Bridge Reconstruction

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