Chicago ranked 3rd most-congested city

Traffic congestion down in Chicago
February 25, 2009 3:01:08 PM PST
Most Chicago-area drivers will agree that traffic congestion is a big problem on roads and expressways. A new study confirms that opinion. In fact, Chicago is one of the most congested cities in the country, according to the INRIX company, a provider of real-time traffic information.

Chicago is the third largest metropolitan area in the country and its road congestion now ranks just behind LA and New York.

Two negatives have translated into a positive on many Chicago roads. High gas prices for much of last year and an increasing unemployment rate have meant fewer cars competing for space.

Overall traffic congestion in the Chicago area fell roughly 17 percent last year, but that's far less than the 29 percent decline seen nationally.

"If I'm in the commute for more than an hour, I'm thinking to myself, What in the world am I doing?" said Chris Hastings, commuter.

Hastings is thinking that a lot these days. He works for the Chicago Sport and Social Club in the city, but when it was time to start a family, Chris joined the legion of those who commute by car. The 40-mile drive each way to and from St. Charles takes its toll.

"I'm in the car for easily 3 hours a day. So five times a week, 15 hours a week in the car. I used to live 10 minutes from work and I wouldn't even get into my car, I'd take the bus or train," said Hastings.

INRIX, a company that supplies real-time road data to many GPS devices, crunched the numbers and concludes the Chicago area is home two of the nation's top 10 bottlenecks, the Dan Ryan heading into the Circle Interchange and a certain stretch of road the politicians claimed they fixed.

"I expect that the improvements we're gonna finish today will drop the Hillside Strangler from that list," said Gov. George Ryan in 2001.

That was Ryan speaking after spending $90 million to supposedly fix the Eisenhower Expressway near Mannheim. Eight years later it is No. 10 on the national bottleneck list.

"From what I've heard from IDOT's perspective, we would have to start all over. That would be a massive, massive undertaking," said Marisa Kollias, IDOT spokesperson.

A recent study reveals roads in and through the city of Chicago account for 47 percent of the region's traffic congestion. Twenty-four-percent of delays take place in suburban Cook County. Lake County's roads claim 16 percent of the area's congestion, followed by DuPage, McHenry, Kane and Will.

Commuter Chris Hastings drives through three of those counties, but for him, only one number is important.

"If I'm home by 7 p.m. to see my daughter before she goes to bed, that's a big deal," said Hastings.

IDOT tells ABC7 they expect President Obama's stimulus package will provide money for even more road construction projects this spring than previously planned.

Chicago's worst spot for traffic back-ups is northbound on the Dan Ryan at Exit 53. That's at Canalport Avenue and Cermak. It's ranked the 8th worst bottleneck in the country.

The infamous Hillside Bottleneck is the second worst in the Chicago area and the tenth worst in the nation.

The worst congestion hour here is Thursday between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Nationwide, it's the same time, but on Friday.

Traffic congestion in the Chicago area dropped by about 17 percent between 2007 and 2008.

The Top 10 Most Congested Cities:
Los Angeles, CA
New York, NY
Chicago, IL
Dallas, TX
Washington, DC
Houston, TX
San Francisco, CA
Boston, MA
Seattle, WA
Minneapolis-St.Paul, MN

More information on Intrix and its survey: