Next phase of Wacker construction set to start

December 27, 2010 (CHICAGO)

There will be detours and road closures in parts of downtown Chicago. Starting Monday, January 3, Wacker Drive will be closed from Randolph to just south of Washington.

The Upper and Lower portions of Wacker Drive going north and south are getting a makeover. But before that, let the headaches and hassles begin.

New year, new Wacker. The $300 million project will create a safer, smoother, Lower and Upper Wacker drive, but it will also throw a wrench in the Loop commute starting next week.

"It's going to be a lot of hassle," said driver Charlie May Pickett. "It's already hard to come through the Loop."

Cab drivers are also resetting their internal GPS.

"We got to find other outlets to do our job, because I work everyday in the downtown area," said cabbie Augustine Arthur.

For now, Lower Wacker will remain open for local traffic only.

But the first half of phase one of the project, through summer of 2011, will close Upper Wacker to through traffic south of Lake and north of Madison.

The construction will completely shut down Upper Wacker from Randolph to just south of Washington. That entire Washington intersection will be shut down to pedestrians.

"I will be walking a block out of my way from the el to get down here, just to walk over to Randolph instead of coming down Washington," said pedestrian Janet Wagner.

And another big adjustment for drivers will be the detour. The alternate route paralleling Wacker, Frankin Street, will be changed from a one-way street to a two-way.

The Commissioner for the Chicago Department of Transportation says people will adjust to changes quickly, just like they did when the east/west portion of Wacker was rehabbed eight years ago.

"Initially, there is a huge impact the first week," said CDOT Commissioner Bobby Ware.

Ware says the inconveniences are all worth it. The five-decade old infrastructure currently puts drivers at risk.

"Most of the changes we are talking about are changes for safety," Ware said. "The mergers are very unsafe on Lower and going into the interchange on Congress."

In the end, north/southbound Lower Wacker will have better lighting and higher clearances from Randolph to Congress. It could just be a long road getting there.

The projected completion year is 2012.

In the meantime, more than a dozen CTA bus routes will also be affected in phase one of the project. Whether you're driving, walking or riding a bus in the Loop, this project will affect you in the next year.

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