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posted: 4/23/2012 6:02 PM

Is relief in sight at the Circle?

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We've all been there. Crawling along to reach the Eisenhower or the Kennedy or the Dan Ryan in the dreaded Circle Interchange.

Built about 50 years ago, the Chicago chokepoint traps 300,000 drivers daily for an average of 10 minutes a day.

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Relief could be on the way, Gov. Pat Quinn said Monday, announcing $40 million will go toward engineering studies of how to improve the bottleneck.

The project is intended to add capacity to the interchange where the Kennedy, Eisenhower and Dan Ryan expressways all converge.

The engineering studies are the first step toward providing relief to motorists stuck in traffic and helping the environment by cutting down on harmful emissions from idling vehicles, Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said Monday.

The Federal Highway Administration called the interchange one of the country's worst chokepoints in 2010, noting vehicles operate at slow speeds there for more than 14 hours daily. About 26,000 of the vehicles using the interchange each day are trucks.

The contract was awarded to the engineering companies AECOM and Transystems. The study is estimated to take about two years to complete and will include cost estimates and a construction schedule.

Preliminary engineering by IDOT shows that adding lanes on ramps, such as the clogged entrance to the Eisenhower, could cut congestion by up to 30 percent.

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