Preview of new and improved Wacker Drive

Traffic moves along Upper Wacker Drive and onto Lower Wacker Drive, via entrance ramp in center, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2005, in downtown Chicago. (File) (Charles Rex Arbogast)
October 4, 2012 3:24:23 PM PDT
There is light at the end of the construction tunnel for a downtown street.

The Wacker Drive project is scheduled to wrap up in less than two months.

The new and improved Wacker Drive is starting to take shape, after nearly two years of reconstruction, the $303 million project will open under budget and on schedule in December.

"We worked very hard in Springfield to pass a law called the Illinois Job Recovery Act and we were able to get the resources, the funding necessary to invest in this project," said Gov. Pat Quinn.

The section of Upper and Lower Wacker from Randolph to Congress will have many safety features, from a stronger concrete deck to fewer access points between upper and lower levels.

Lower Wacker is still closed to through traffic, but ABC7 had an opportunity to drive a section of it. The new design separates the delivery area from the thoroughfare. There are nine ventilation systems to remove exhaust and other pollutants.

Part of Lower Wacker will ultimately be the new entrance ramp to the outbound Eisenhower. It's wider, about a foot taller and better lit. In fact, the entire Franklin/Wacker/Eisenhower interchange will be safer.

"When you're coming off of Lower Wacker heading westbound on Congress, you'll have a dedicated lane so that it will be easier to merge on there and not be butting into traffic," said Dan Gross, Wacker Drive resident engineer.

The area above that interchange will be 34 acres of green space: two parks on either side of Congress and a dog park on the northwest corner.

When the entire project wraps up officials say it will last for 100 years. Weather permitting, Upper and Lower Wacker will be open for your driving pleasure in December.


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