Commuters face closures on Wacker Drive

January 3, 2011 4:45:06 PM PST
Phase two of the Wacker Drive reconstruction project is now under way, changing the way Chicagoans commute through the Loop.

Approximately 60,000 vehicles that use Upper and Lower Wacker Drive each day are being detoured, several streets are closed, and 13 CTA bus lines are rerouted.

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Beginning Monday, the part of Upper Wacker that goes north and south is closed from Lake Street to Madison. That closure is expected to remain in effect until the summer. In addition, Randolph and Washington are also closed where they intersect Wacker Drive.

To ease some of the congestion caused by the closures, Franklin, which is normally a one-way street, is now a two-way street between the Chicago River and Van Buren.

More information on CTA reroutes can be found at

Traffic management workers got a workout Monday morning as they waved commuters down Lake Street redirecting them off of closed Wacker Drive.

"They are just making us detour down Lake Street and Franklin Street, which is a new two-way. It's our first time so we really don't know if it's going be good or bad," driver Ashton Bell told ABC7.

"It took about 20 minutes longer," said another commuter.

"I'm not a very patient person, but as long as Lake Street is open and I can get her to work and I can get to work, I will deal with it. I would rather deal with construction than have it collapse on us," said driver Stephen Belyn.

Wacker Drive is in danger of serious structural damage if it's not rebuilt soon.

"Now is the time to rebuild this roadway. We have got the funding in place. We have got an aggressive two two-year construction schedule," said Brian Steele, Chicago Department of Transportation.

Sandwiched in the middle of the massive construction project is Emil's, a 25-year-old restaurant and bar. Its owner expects to lose quite a bit of business.

"Minimum 30-percent to 50-percent. I don't know how the noise is going to affect the people. I don't know if the ground will tremble or what," said John Boutzarelos, owner.

Many of the restaurant's customers are Lyric Opera patrons, and with closed down intersections at Randolph and Washington, they will have to navigate their way to the opera. The Lyric has worked out a deal with the city where patrons can be dropped off right in front of the building on performance days only.

"We're also positioning Lyric escorts at corners around a two-block radius around the opera house to assist our guests in getting to the opera house for shows," said Rich Regan, Lyric Opera spokesperson.

Throughout the construction project, sidewalks will remain open. Some on foot are actually looking forward to the empty streets and the lack of traffic lights.

"Wacker is the longest light that we have to wait for going to the train, so it's great," said pedestrian Bob Williams.

The project will be completed in about two years. The first half of it will be done midsummer, and then construction begins from Madison to Monroe.