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posted: 7/30/2014 9:08 AM

Editorial: Stay calm, alert through road construction

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  • This may be the worst construction season ever in Chicago -- and that's saying something. We'll need patience and an eye on safety to get through it.

    This may be the worst construction season ever in Chicago -- and that's saying something. We'll need patience and an eye on safety to get through it.
    Daily Herald File Photo

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

You're sitting in your car, fiddling with the radio knobs for something to do, when a horn blasts behind you. You look up to see the traffic ahead of you on the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway has moved forward an entire car length closer to Thorndale Avenue.


Or you're cursing all of the people around you on the Jane Addams Tollway who apparently have forgotten that rule about not crossing solid white lines in spite of the "Stay in your lane" reminder signs as you slalom between construction zones.

It's roadwork season in the Chicago area and, experts say, probably our worst ever. And while it may be half over already, the worst is yet to come.

Transportation writer Marni Pyke in a column on Monday asked whether the web of construction projects spanning the suburbs has made for the worst commute ever. The answer: Yes.

In the suburbs alone, we have the widening of the Jane Addams (I-90); construction of a new interchange at the Tri-State Tollway (I-294) and I-57; and work on the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway (I-390) making a mess of the I-290 and I-355 corridor during rush hour.

And let's not forget all of the bridges that have been torn out to make way for a wider I-90, nullifying many alternate routes.

Add to all of that other regional projects, such as Route 31 construction through a good chunk of McHenry County, and you find yourself with few direct routes.

"There is a lot going on," acknowledged Kristi Lafleur, executive director of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority. "We're more than halfway through our biggest year ever.

All told, 160 miles of lanes, 70 bridges and 20 interchanges are being rebuilt or improved.

If you live in the suburbs and work in Chicago, then hopefully you have a job that allows you to take the train, because the alternative is the stuff of nightmares. Reconstruction of the Circle Interchange, where the Dan Ryan, Ike and Kennedy all coalesce, will cause ripples all the way to O'Hare.

And the I-90 construction from O'Hare into the city will extend into 2016.

The best remedy to getting through this endurance course with mind and body intact is preparation, patience and a big dose of awareness.

Stay calm. Always give yourself extra time. Tune in to some upbeat music. You'll get there when you get there.

And, above all, don't give in to the temptation to conduct business on your phone. Don't text. Don't call. Don't browse. Whether traffic is moving or stopped. It's illegal. And fines start at $375 in work zones.

It's when traffic patterns are changed or traffic is stop and go that you need to be your most alert, not your most distracted.

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