Expect delays as Circle Interchange work begins

Traffic-mageddon? Perhaps that's too dire. But west suburbanites hoping to zip home from Chicago this spring and summer should lower their expectations to snail time. The Illinois Department of Transportation will rev up a massive rebuild of the notorious Jane Byrne Interchange, formerly the Circle Interchange, Tuesday night. That means delays, particularly for people who enter the westbound Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) from the Dan Ryan Expressway and those who get onto the Dan Ryan from the Stevenson Expressway. The good news for I-290 drivers should be that the Hunger Games-esque scenario on the Ike entrance ramp from the Ryan, where opportunists try to sneak into the one lane of traffic at the last minute, should end. IDOT will deliver a two-lane ramp in 2016 to serve the 35,000 vehicles that use it daily. All ramp and lane closures will be in place by March 12, IDOT engineers said at a news conference Thursday. They advised drivers to be realistic about backups and think about alternate routes.

"Taking that (I-290) ramp today is challenging ... over the next year and a half (traffic) will be consistent with that," Region One Deputy Director of Highways John Fortmann said. "We're encouraging people to avoid that area at least in the next two weeks and let traffic settle. But after it's completed, it will be one of the biggest benefits of the Circle Interchange because it will double the capacity."

Here some specifics of the work, which IDOT promises will fix the gridlock that ensues when the Ryan, Eisenhower and Kennedy expressways converge. • IDOT will close the ramp from the Ryan to inbound Congress Parkway. Drivers will be detoured onto Roosevelt Road, then to Jefferson, Harrison and Wells streets and Congress Parkway.

• Drivers can still get from the Dan Ryan (I-90/94) to the Eisenhower, but the ramp will be shifted to a temporary location. • The inbound and outbound lanes from the Stevenson Expressway onto the Dan Ryan will shrink from two to one.

• IDOT will close the right lane of the inbound Dan Ryan that takes vehicles from the Stevenson to Roosevelt Road.

• The ramp leading from Roosevelt Road to the Eisenhower/Congress Parkway will close.

• The Taylor Street ramp to the inbound Ryan will close.

Engineers acknowledged the lane closure on the Stevenson to the Ryan will be ugly. "That'll back up because you'll have two lanes merging into one," Fortmann said.

Detours will be posted for closed ramps. The rebuild will cost $475 million.

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  The ramp leading to the Eisenhower Expressway will be widened to two lanes in 2016. Marni Pyke/
  IDOT crews work on the Circle Interchange as cars whiz by on the left toward the Kennedy Expressway and on the right to the Eisenhower Expressway using a ramp that will be rebuilt. Marni Pyke/
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