Pyke: Are I-355 traffic delays the protesters' fault?

  • Mike Malone of the Overpasses for America group readies some protest signs on the Great Western Trail footbridge over I-355.

    Mike Malone of the Overpasses for America group readies some protest signs on the Great Western Trail footbridge over I-355. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Millennials -- those born between 1982 and 2003 -- use more public transit and drive less, studies show.

    Millennials -- those born between 1982 and 2003 -- use more public transit and drive less, studies show.

Updated 8/25/2014 11:36 AM

Protest all you want, but don't cause an accident or delay my commute.

That was how a majority of readers responded to last week's column on Overpasses for America demonstrators.


The group can periodically be found waving signs opposing the Obama administration above I-355 on the Great Western Trail footbridge in Lombard. Here's what you had to say.

Reader Thomas Wydra of Carol Stream has "witnessed firsthand the adverse effect these protests have on traffic flow. (Recently) vehicles were backed up bumper-to-bumper from I-88 all the way to that Great Western Trail overpass.

"Additionally, I witnessed three near-miss accidents just in the vicinity of my car." Wydra noted. "Two drivers almost rear-ended other vehicles and another just missed sideswiping a car when trying to navigate quickly between lanes. It was a Friday and most of us commuters simply want to get home quickly and safely."

Mark S. Clemens commutes on I-355 between his office in Romeoville and home in Elgin. "I don't have a lot of options except drive on I-355," Clemens wrote. "When the protests happen, it adds about 20 minutes to my typical hour commute."

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And Sheila Kessler of Arlington Heights, who travels to Downers Grove using I-355 daily, commented "traffic is normally not congested on that stretch. My average time from entrance to exit is 25 minutes."

But when protests occur, "the same trip is on average 75 minutes," Kessler said. "It is rare that the southbound a.m. trip or the northbound p.m. trip are bumper-to-bumper, unless there is an accident or these folks are creating a hazard."

Molly Pohl of Mendota provided a counterpoint.

"As far as traffic, there has NEVER been a time that I have driven to Chicago that I have not had to stop at a standstill because of backups!" she wrote.

"We all know that rush hour is a mess and the anger and frustration is there on a daily basis -- just watch next time at the neighboring cars and the people driving -- you can see it in their faces. This is an everyday occurrence! So to blame innocent people that are up on an overpass a few hours a week is ridiculous."


I asked the Illinois tollway if it could give drivers a head's up about protests, held periodically on Fridays. "When we are notified of traffic backups on this stretch of roadway, we post a message on our digital signs that says 'Congestion Ahead,'" spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said.

Switching gears, an Aug. 11 column about efforts to prevent fatalities and injuries at rail crossings also provoked reader reaction, including from Ben Hecht of DuPage County.

"First of all, the engineer/railroad is rarely, if ever, at fault when there is a crash with a vehicle," he wrote. "Driving 101 (and common sense) tell drivers to not go around downed railroad gates -- they are only asking for trouble. Also, Driving 101 tells drivers to have enough momentum to cross ALL the tracks in case the vehicle stops running for any reason.

"One solution to prevent drivers going around gates would be to make the gates longer so they cover the entire crossing," Hecht recommended.

Keep those emails and letters coming. Drop me a line at or follow me on Twitter at @dhintransit.

You should know

Here's a shout-out to all the kids who won awards in Metra's annual safety poster and essay contest. Local first-place poster honorees are Evan Boyle of St. Charles, Tristan Mehra and Manya Davis of Naperville, Samantha Chen and Cameron Chen of Green Oaks, Veronica Buchweitz of Lake in the Hills, Daniel Garcia of Des Plaines, Michelle Mo of Downers Grove, and Joshua Andrew Moy of Riverwoods. Essay first-place holders are Sean Forman of Palatine, and Akhil Devarajan and Evelyn Gachuz of Aurora.

One more thing

Not to be outdone by Metra, the Illinois tollway is also sponsoring its own art contest for high school students. The winner's drawing will be displayed on the tollway 2015 road map, which is distributed throughout the state, plus get gift certificates for art stores. Drawings must be postmarked by Oct. 3. To learn more go to


Get a professional to check how secure your child safety seat is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the DuPage Children's Museum, 301 N. Washington St., Naperville. Free children's ID cards also will be offered for kids 3 and older at the event sponsored by the tollway and Illinois State Police.

Gridlock alert

Bad news, Sievert Drive commuters. Part of the road is closing south of Thorndale Avenue in Wood Dale today through the end of the year. The closures will allow the Illinois tollway to build an eastbound frontage road that's part of the Elgin-O'Hare/western bypass project (I-390).

You're as young as your commute

How Millennial are your local travel habits? You can find out by taking an online quiz sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association. Studies show the Millennial Generation (those born between 1982 and 2003) use more public transit and travel apps and drive less than the rest of us fogies. Take the test at

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