Chicago area traffic picks up with more people on the roads, IDOT says

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The traffic in the past couple weeks has been just as heavy as before the COVID-19 pandemic, if not worse.

Traffic patterns are changing once again with more company on the roads and much higher travel times.

"Looking at, comparing April of this year to April of last year, there's definitely been an increase, in some cases almost double. Now, looking further back to comparing to this year to 2019, we're not quite there. We're still about 10 minutes short of the average morning rush hour times in. However, it's gradually, you know, bumping up there," said Maria Castaneda, Illinois Department of Transportation spokesperson.

When looking at the Stevenson in April 2019 at 8 a.m., the average travel time from the Tri-State to the Dan Ryan was 23 minutes. In 2020, the same trip was only 19 minutes. The average time in April of 2021 was 33 minutes.

Comparing the number of trips in just the last four months to pre-COVID-19 levels, January still had 35% fewer trips, 28% less in February, 14% less in March and only 6% fewer trips in April.

As changes to roads continue, IDOT is concerned as people head back to work and many have not been on the expressways in over a year.

"Absolutely, for example on the I-90, if you're heading out from say Downtown and you're going to the airport, you want to get off and get going to the airport, you definitely have to get over to that right lane about a mile sooner because that exit has moved," Castaneda said.

There will also be significant changes in the Jane Byrne Interchange construction zone this year. There will be focus on the mainline, causing delays on the Kennedy and Dan Ryan feeding into the Jane Byrne Interchange.

It is also a big construction season on the tollways. The most impact will be felt on I-294.

The Central Tri-State reconstruction and widening from Balmoral to 95th already has several work zones in place with narrow lanes and changing configurations. This includes the Mile Long Bridge. This year the new southbound will be built.

It is essential driving through construction and pay attention.

"Slow down. The speed limit is lowered for a reason. Things can happen very quickly in a work zone, and if you traveled through it yesterday, it may not be that same work zone tomorrow," Castaneda said.
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