Circle Interchange to get major overhaul

July 17, 2013 (CHICAGO)

PHOTOS: New Circle Interchange sketches

People call it the "spaghetti bowl" for a reason. The Circle Interchange can be a traffic tangle, but a major overhaul kicked off Wednesday.

Quinn is launching a $475 million construction project that is expected to create thousands of construction jobs.

The project will start on the Morgan Street Bridge and will reconstruct the Circle Interchange at the heart of Chicago that links the Dan Ryan, the Eisenhower, the Kennedy and Congress Parkway.

The Circle Interchange was constructed between 1958 and 1962, and has outlived its original design life. The funding will come from state and federal resources. The Circle Interchange is notorious for its traffic jams. In 2004, it was rated as the country's third-worst traffic bottleneck.

The fix is expected to reduce traffic delays by 50 percent and is also expected to save 1.6 million gallons of gas. The project is set to last four years.

"This is the most congested intersection for freight in all of the United States. Four hundred thousand vehicles every day use this interchange, 33,000 trucks," Quinn said of the 60-year-old interchange.

The new design will add a lane to both the inbound Kennedy and inbound Ryan at the Eisenhower. It will also add a lane on two of the most congested ramps - the inbound Ryan to outbound Ike, and the inbound Ike to the outbound Kennedy.

Officials say it will save Dan Ryan commuters 15 minutes a day.

"On the northbound Ryan to the westbound Ike commuters are going to save 20 minutes per day, which is 84 hours or 10 and a half vacation days per year," said Ann Schneider, Illinois secretary of transportation.

The inbound Ryan ramp to the outbound Ike will be rebuilt as a flyover ramp, eliminating the current bottleneck. The first work begins this fall with the rebuilding of several bridges - Morgan, Halsted, Harrison and Peoria. Construction of that flyover ramp will begin late next year.

"For most of the contract it will be open; that ramp carries 40,000 cars a day, roughly and we thought it was critical to keep that open," said John Fortmann, IDOT Region 1 engineer.

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