(4/1/05) – Those all-too-familiar orange and black construction signs situated along the Dan Ryan Expressway are set to stay up for some time. Illinois Department of Transpor-tation (IDOT) officials reported at a recent Near South Planning Board meeting that road work between 31st Street and the I-57 Interchange will extend until 2007 and possibly until 2008.
The Dan Ryan Expressway Reconstruction, headed by IDOT, will provide an additional lane in each direction, a reconfigured Chicago Skyway interchange, and enhancements to local access roads running parallel to the expressway.
Commuters must be patient, cautioned Robin N. Black, IDOT chief of staff. “Right now we are in the preliminary stages, which shocks many people because it looks like we’re actually tearing everything up,” said Black. “We’re not. We’re just getting ready to get on the expressway next year in what we call main line work.”
Diane O’Keefe, IDOT’s district engineer for the Chicago area, offered commuters some reassurance. “IDOT is making good on a two-fold promise to the Dan Ryan community: We are committed to never closing two consecutive ramps at the same time and to finishing the overall project as quickly as possible,” she said.
With the Dan Ryan being Chicago’s busiest expressway, traffic is dense and the expressway has the highest accident rate. “The congestion and bottleneck is unacceptable,” declared Black.
Even so, some Chicagoans and other travelers question the need for the $430 million project. IDOT officials counter that Dan Ryan reconstruction is overdue. The roadway is more than 40 years old and was built to carry 150,000 vehicles per day, but today’s Dan Ryan traffic exceeds 300,000 vehicles daily. IDOT planners and City officials believe the expressway outgrew its design structure more than 20 years ago. Other reasons for reconstruction include the need to reduce the accident rate, relieve congestion, rebuild deteriorating pavement, eliminate flooding, and improve the Skyway interchange.
While the project’s completion is three long chilly winters away, officials hope the major improvements from 31st Street south to I-57 will prove temporary construction inconveniences worthwhile. The new design is expected to improve travel safety significantly, eliminate traffic bottlenecks, and reduce congestion. Aesthetic, yet practical, improvements include updated highway lighting, overhead message signs, and higher barrier walls along the Chicago Transit Authority tracks. Some new landscaping and a mural also will be added but “won’t be a distraction” because drivers tend “to pay attention to the road and not the landscaping of the expressway,” Black said.
Reaching out to minority and women-owned businesses to help “demystify” the process for doing business as part of the Dan Ryan project is high on IDOT’s list of priorities. In fact, the department instituted a formal program to inform these groups how to bid on and obtain work.
For example, the program holds opportunity fairs to help minorities and small businesses achieve fair consideration for work and contracts and offers Economic Opportunity Training, a program providing basic instruction to develop educational skills needed for acceptance into highway construction training programs and apprenticeships.
“Diversity is our and the Governor’s commitment,” Black stated. “We’re looking to enhance our workforce at IDOT. The number of minorities working on the Dan Ryan project when we get a weekly workforce utilization report is upwards of 50%, and that’s split between African Americans and Hispanics.”
IDOT will help smooth the Dan Ryan reconstruction project by giving drivers accessible and up-to-date information on road work and progress. Useful information such as travel times, congestion maps, snapshots, resources to help cope with the road work, and before-and-after photos are provided on www.danryanexpressway.com and via television and radio reports.
Drivers eventually will reap some of the rewards such as improved curb design on local access roads, synchronized traffic light timing, new turn lanes at 55th and 67th Streets, and reconstruction of local access roads between 47th and 63rd Streets. Additionally, Black believes developers perceive the reconstruction project as an opportunity to build new housing and businesses nearby. “Whenever you reconstruct a highway, you spur the economy and attract developers,” said Black.
IDOT officials expect the closed ramps at 31st and 35th Streets to reopen early this month.
They better open the 31st and 35th st. exits, or when people see White Sox play baseball at US cellaure field, that place will have a huge traffic jam.
The 35th and the 31st exits looks almost done, but maybe some people like to prolong the constrution.
Currently with this constructioning, I-94 and I-90 splits before the skyway exits. It split about a mile or 2, becuase the I-90 use the local lanes near skyway and the I-94 uses the express lanes, for like a mile.
I didnt see any more shoulder lanes.
Many more people are using the red line. Marquette was closed for construction, the 87th will close soon, maybe the 95th too, But right now, if you could, aviod the Dan Ryan. use the I-294 if you are from the northwen suburbs. USe the LSD from Downtown area and go all the way to the end which eventually intersects the skyway.
"Speaking of the last photograph, does anyone know what they're doing with the Quality Inn in Greektown? That thing is hideous. Whatever they do, I hope its substantially altered."
If that's the same one that used to be the Rodeway Inn, it is being transformed into a Crowne Plaza Hotel, which is supposed to open later this year. http://www.westloop.org/announcements/contentview.asp?c=116059 Supposedly they are also building a bistro-style restaurant, which, although attached to the hotel, is intended to feel like a stand-alone restaurant.
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