Kennedy Expressway Construction in Chicago Already Causing Traffic Backups For Morning Commute

The 3-year construction project began Monday night

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Head's up, motorists: Your Tuesday morning commute into Chicago from the north and northwest suburbs is about to look a lot different -- and it's likely to stay that way for the next three years.

The Illinois Department of Transportation late Monday and into early Tuesday began their massive, $150 million Kennedy Expressway rehabilitation construction project by working to close two inbound lanes on a highly-trafficked, 7.5 mile portion of the highway, stretching as far north as the Lawrence Avenue on the Edens Expressway to Ohio Street in the city.

However, NBC 5 traffic reporter Kye Martin reports that motorists will encounter the new inbound traffic pattern as far north as Cicero Avenue.

As of 6:45 a.m. Tuesday, SKY 5 showed traffic already backing up into the Edens Expressway near Dempster, and as far west as Cumberland Avenue near O'Hare International Airport.

TRAFFIC: Check the latest travel times for your Tuesday morning commute

"Tuesday morning, the motoring public is going to see these two left lanes closed on the inbound," the Illinois Department of Transportation's Bureau Chief of Construction Jon Schumacher told NBC 5, adding that the express lanes will remain open and in the inbound configuration "permanently, 24/7 for the rest of the year" in an effort to reduce traffic impacts into the city.

According to IDOT, "major delays are anticipated" for the duration of the construction.

As the construction gets underway for on the first day of the project, here's a breakdown of what lanes will be closed and when.

And, morning commuters: Good luck. After you've made it safely into work, let us know how your commute into the city was here.

Kennedy Expressway Chicago Construction Schedule

Spring 2023 Through Fall 2023: Inbound Lanes

"Two mainline inbound lanes will be closed at a time," IDOT says, with lane shifts, overnight closures and various ramp closures expected. However, "to help minimize the impact to traffic, the reversible express lanes will remain open in the inbound direction, and motorists will not be able to exit the express lanes until Armitage Avenue."

According to Schumacher, the express lanes will will be set to that inbound configuration "permanently, 24/7, for the rest of the year."

In the summer months, the inbound tunnel underneath where Hubbard Street crosses over the Kennedy Expressway will also be impacted.

"Later this summer, painting and the installation of new LED lighting will begin on inbound Hubbard's Cave between Ohio and Lake Streets," IDOT says.

According to officials, stage 1 projects are expected to be completed in the fall of 2023, with "all lanes and ramps reopening and the express lanes resuming normal operations."

Spring 2024 Through Fall 2024: Express Lanes

IDOT says the second stage of the project will tackle the reversible express lanes.

According to the release, next year, the express lanes will be closed to accommodate a rehabilitation of the Reversible Lane Access Control System known as REVLAC.

"In addition, mainline lane closures will be needed to accommodate painting and the installation of new LED lighting in both directions of Hubbard's Cave, between Ohio and Lake streets," IDOT says.

According to officials, stage 2 projects are expected to begin in the spring of 2024, and be completed in fall of 2024.

Spring 2025 Through Late Fall 2025: Outbound Kennedy

The third stage of the construction, IDOT says, will address the outbound lanes of the Kennedy Expressway.

According to the release, two mainline outbound lanes will be closed at a time, with lane shifts, overnight lane closures, and various ramp closures. However, "the reversible express lanes will remain open in the outbound direction," IDOT says.

Additionally, work on outbound Hubbard's Cave will continue between Ohio and Lake Streets, IDOT says.

Map of Kennedy, Edens Closures

Provided by IDOT
A map of the Kennedy Construction closures

Check the latest travel times with the construction here.

Are There Alternate Routes?

IDOT officials urged drivers to adjust their schedules or find alternate modes of transportation during the construction.

"Look for alternate routes, take Metra, take CTA," Schumacher said. "We've also recommended that people look into maybe staggering their work times. So if they could start a little a couple hours earlier, they might be able to avoid the worst of the rush hour traffic. And then similarly, with coming off the pandemic, a lot of people were able to work remotely. So if some people that are able to work remotely, if that's something that they're able to do, that's also going to help us minimize some of the traffic impacts that we're gonna see."

Metra announced this week that it was revising its schedule on the UP Northwest Line beginning April 3 to add 12 trains to its weekday service lineup.

MORE: Pace, Metra Tout Services as Drivers Look for Alternatives Due to Kennedy Expressway Construction

IDOT has also suggested commuters exit earlier and use arterial roads for their commutes, though they noted that it may be a process of trial and error.

"Just find the route that works best for you," Schumacher said. "And ... the first route that you take on Tuesday morning might not be the best one. Keep trying different alternates and see what works for you based on your travel time and your destination and that should help minimize your impacts."

But according to NBC 5 traffic reporter Kye Martin, viable side routes may take more time than many have.

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