How would you get to a Bears game in Arlington Heights?

  • Traffic flows through the intersection of Wilke Road and Northwest Highway near Arlington Park on Friday. Imagine it if the Bears were playing in town.

    Traffic flows through the intersection of Wilke Road and Northwest Highway near Arlington Park on Friday. Imagine it if the Bears were playing in town. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Northwest Highway near Arlington Park was busy Friday, but not like it would be on a Chicago Bears game day.

    Northwest Highway near Arlington Park was busy Friday, but not like it would be on a Chicago Bears game day. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted10/4/2021 5:30 AM

After decades of trekking to Chicago for Bears games, football fans' internal compasses are facing a reset.

So ... assuming the Chicago Bears escape their Soldier Field lease, someone figures out how to pay for a new stadium at Arlington Park, and a deal is finalized with Arlington Heights -- how would you get to games?

 

Veteran traffic reporter Kris Habermehl plans to hop on the eastbound Jane Addams Tollway, then merge onto northbound Route 53 near Schaumburg.

Easy-breezy ... except "I expect on game days, I'll start running into traffic on eastbound I-90 (starting) at Roselle Road and flowing onto northbound 53," predicted Habermehl, who lives in Ogle County. "Route 53 will be backed up from Woodfield Mall to the new Bears stadium."

Kane County Transportation Director Carl Schoedel would opt to ride Metra from Geneva, where he lives, to the game.

But taking the Union Pacific West Line inbound to Chicago and transferring to a UP Northwest train to Arlington Park would be a three-hour trip to the stadium. "That doesn't seem terribly realistic," Schoedel said.

Let's delve into driving first.

Arlington Park, which closed Sept. 25, had a capacity of about 32,000 people. Soldier Field's capacity is 61,500, and a new stadium likely would accommodate more, straining Route 53 access ramps near the site.

"I don't want to jump the gun, but taking a look at both exit ramps -- the cloverleaf at Euclid Avenue and the horseshoe exit at Northwest Highway (Route 14) -- those would be ridiculously crowded," said Habermehl, a former WBBM 780-AM reporter.

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The Tri-State Tollway would handle Bears fans from the north and south, spilling a lot of traffic onto exits at Palatine and Dundee roads.

How could the state and transit agencies alleviate potential gridlock? Reaction was a bit hands-off.

"It is very premature, and at this time there are many unknowns," Illinois Department of Transportation spokeswoman Maria Castaneda said. "As with any private development, we anticipate there would be some traffic impact studies involved to address the needs of the overall redevelopment."

Asked if Metra would pile on express trains, spokesman Michael Gillis said, "We would very likely add extra service for games/events, but it's too early to give any specifics."

Likewise, Regional Transportation Authority Chairman Kirk Dillard said: "While I hate to punt, pun intended, we are many yards from a final decision from the Bears or city of Chicago. The RTA always stands ready to protect taxpayers and assist the public, our riders or spur economic development.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I take Metra, then the CTA to see the Bears at Soldier Field, and it is inexpensive and convenient. Metra runs to Arlington Park, but it is not the same capacity as getting to Ogilvie, Union or the downtown Chicago-area stations."

Metra's not the only player, however. The CTA's Blue Line Rosemont station is less than 14 miles from a future Arlington Heights stadium.

Asked about possible express buses between the Rosemont stop and Arlington Park, Pace bus spokeswoman Maggie Daly Skogsbakken said: "Depending on resources, that location and others could definitely be considered. As with any new business, facility or venue, Pace would be happy to explore what services might help reduce congestion and support the use of public transportation."

Hanover Park Mayor and Metra Director Rod Craig envisions a fleet of express buses traveling along Route 390 and the I-355 corridor. "We have to be visionary about our future," he said.

One more thing

For some, the Bears news opened that can of worms known as extending Route 53 north to Route 120 in Lake County. If the franchise moves to Arlington Park, will that moribund project revive?

Doubtful. The lowest estimate for a Route 53 extension, which no one wanted to pay for, was $2.7 billion. There's only one person who could make it happen, and not only did his hand-picked Illinois tollway administration kill the Route 53 extension in 2019, but he also wants the team to stay in Chicago.

"I know it would be disappointing for me if the Chicago Bears moved," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday.

How would you get to Bears games at Arlington Park? Drop an email to mpyke@dailyherald.com.

You should know

Got strong feelings about crashes at Route 20 near Shales Parkway in Elgin? IDOT is considering improvements, and you can weigh in through Oct. 20 at us20atshalesstudy.org/public-meetings.

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