Is There a Way Around Massive Construction Project on Kennedy Expressway? Yes and No, Experts Say

While the Illinois Department of Transportation has been telling drivers to seek alternate routes, there may not be many options for drivers

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What can Kennedy Expressway commuters do to avoid the major construction project that is expected to soon wreak havoc on drive times?

Experts say the answer is not much.

While the Illinois Department of Transportation has been telling drivers to seek alternate routes, there may not be many options for drivers.

"Look for alternate routes, take Metra, take CTA," IDOT's Bureau Chief of Construction Jon Schumacher told NBC 5. "We've also recommended that people look into maybe staggering their work times. So if they could start ... 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.

“Metra has been monitoring ridership as well as customer feedback, and these schedule changes respond to ridership trends and increase capacity and convenience by expanding peak-period as well as off-peak service,” Metra CEO and Executive Director Jim Derwinski said in a statement. “And with a major multiyear rehab project scheduled to start on the Kennedy Expressway, this new schedule allows Metra to provide more commuters with a viable and much less stressful alternative to driving.”

IDOT has also suggested commuters exit earlier and use arterial roads for their commutes, though they noted that 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.

The first lane closures are set to begin at 10 p.m. Monday, kicking off a years-long construction project on a 7.5-mile stretch of the highly-trafficked Kennedy Expressway that will see lane closures and traffic impacts through 2025.

Transportation officials have warned of major delays due to the project. And the construction will likely see impacts for both public transportation and inbound and outbound commutes.

Check the latest travel times with the construction here.

In all, the work will take place in three stages that will continue over three "construction seasons," with an expected end date of fall 2025. Still, officials stressed that the schedule is "weather permitting" and could be subject to change.

"So Tuesday morning ... the motoring public is going to see these two left lanes closed on the inbound," said Schumacher. "The reversals will be in the inbound configuration permanently 24/7 for the rest of the year." And starting about a week after that the full seven and a half miles will be staged. It's just that's the part of the Kennedy that when it was built, that's the section that was built in this the time that it was programmed to do it."

The initial steps will be to simply put "the work zone in place."

"Work initially involves setting up the work zone and gradually reducing the 7.5-mile stretch of the inbound Kennedy down to two through lanes," IDOT said in a release. "Crews will put up barriers starting at the Edens junction moving south to Ohio Street. This process is scheduled to take place each night from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. the following morning and is expected to take approximately one week for the work zone to be in place."

While this year's work will center on the inbound construction, leading to many delays, outbound commuters can also expect to see some additional traffic as express lanes will remain in the inbound direction for the rest of the year.

For more on what you should know about the construction project click here.

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