Slushy conditions hamper traffic

DES PLAINES There was a messy mix of rain and sleet and snow in the city and the surrounding area, slowing traffic down just about everywhere.

Spinouts and accidents were common Thursday night during the storm. Slick conditions caused a rollover accident in Skokie. One woman was injured.

By nightfall, traffic eased up and so did the snow for much of the area, but motorists agreed it was best to slow down.

Salt trucks were out in full force Thursday in the city and the suburbs trying to keep the rush hour under control

In Chicago, 75 trucks were out on the streets. The department of streets and sanitation spokesman, Matt Smith, said that around the city in his opinion, motorists are driving like it's April. He says it's kind of a rough winter for the department of streets and sanitation. This winter, he said, there have been 45 so-called "snow programs." That's twice as many as last winter.

"When we send trucks out from start to conclusion to when we finally bring them in, we call that a snow program. So you get an idea of how bad the winter is based on the number of programs you have to go into. Having said that, a snow program can last for three days. It can be a horrible blizzard. Or it could last for five or six hours because you had to have trucks out because conditions were freezing and pavement was wet. But maybe there were no incidents. And the slick portions of the roadway were addressed. So no matter how it is, this has been a winter for the record books," Smith said.

And speaking of setting records, the city of Chicago, because of this winter, is way over budget in terms of equipment, labor and salt.

"At the point we're talking, it's about 58-something inches of snow. If we get less than two inches, an inch and a quarter, we will be breaking the top ten of Chicago's snowiest or crumbiest winters but we'll be at seven," said Smith.

Like a houseguest that's overstayed his welcome, Old Man Winter can't seem to take the hint. It's been a rough winter for the department of streets and sanitation and an expensive one. Since the start of the year, the city has spent about $12 million on salt, $6 million on equipment and $7.5 million on labor, bringing the total to about $25 million. The budget for all of 2008 is $18.5 million. So already the city is about $7 million over budget, even before next winter.

An accident on the Dan Ryan Expressway contributed to the traffic delays. It involved three semis, a bus and an SUV.

It happened at about 3 o'clock in the outbound lanes at 51st Street.

Seven passengers from the casino tour bus were taken to the hospital. According to a fire department spokesperson, they were all in fair to serious condition.

There were some lane closures while crews worked to clear the wreckage. They have since re-opened.

There's no word on what caused the crash.
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