Chicago traffic: 3-year Kennedy Expressway construction project begins Monday night

ByDiane Pathieu, Eric Horng, and Stephanie Wade WLS logo
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
3-year Kennedy Expressway construction project begins Monday night
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The Kennedy Expressway construction, project begins Monday night which will impact Chicago traffic for three years.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Hundreds of thousands of drivers use the Kennedy Expressway every single day, and things are about to change for those commuters in a big way.

A long-awaited estimated $150 million construction project on the Kennedy Expressway begins Monday night, and will last for three years. The construction will affect drivers in a major way.

"It's going to get really heavy, and the traffic," commuter Rafael Robeles said. "I'll be traveling back and forth and it's gonna to be really tight people trying to go back home, people trying to go to work, it's just gonna get tough, very tough."

Beginning at 10 p.m., IDOT crews will begin setting up construction on the inbound side of the Kennedy Expressway between Montrose and Hubbard's Cave.

Chicago's Kennedy Expressway reconstruction

By the end of this week, the two left lanes will be closed for that entire 7.5-mile stretch.

"Oh yeah, more construction right in my backyard, on my way to everywhere," said driver Betsy Kalmar.

But it's not just the inbound side. The express lanes will no longer open outbound, only inbound, during the entire first phase of the project, which means no relief for those outbound drivers leaving downtown.

"You're going to impact on the Kennedy if you are going inbound or outbound- because obviously the work is going inbound, but also you're not going to have those additional two lanes during the outbound commute so not only Is it going to impact those traveling the Kennedy, but it could definitely start impacting those on the Dan Ryan or even the Eisenhower," IDOT spokesperson Maria Castaneda said.

SEE MORE: IDOT to begin 3-year project on 36 bridges over Kennedy Expressway; closures expected

IDOT suggests trying to either leave home earlier, or stagger your drive time if you can, otherwise CTA and Metra might be a good option. The UP Northwest is even adding more trains to their schedule to help accommodate.

Other possible alternatives are the Eisenhower or DuSable Lake Shore Drive, but beware, because you won't be the only one.

"It's going to be a pain in the butt, and I'm not going to like to take an alternate route to get to work every morning and come back home," said commuter Mary Brown.

Either way, drivers, especially those that do it for a living, are not looking forward to the traffic mess.

"It's gonna cause a big mess for us as limo drivers getting our people from one place to another and the destination we have to go," limo driver Dana Malone said.

"I think we're probably going to have to take either 55, take a detour all the way down to 294 cause I'm not taking 94 anymore," limo driver Dave Singh said. "I don't want to sit in traffic for two, three hours."

The Illinois Department of Transportation said the pavement is in decent shape, but work is starting because of bridge decks that are in bad shape.

"The bridges especially are falling to pieces on the Kennedy, and it's high-time that they do this. But, the problem with road work, is we just have to suffer through it," said limo driver Don Wendland.

Thirty-six bridge structures will be repaired, along with overhead sign-structures, new LED lights, pavement patching and more.

Tony Lopez, who drives for Lyft, is worried about burning through gas, sitting in traffic, and warned that rideshare companies could start raising prices because of it.

"A lot of people are going to miss their flights, and it's going to be hard for everybody," Lopez said. "Do you know how much gas and time it's going to take for us to get people to and from the airport? Now, a lot of drivers aren't going to want to go out there because it's not worth the money."

The project will be done in three phases, starting this year with the inbound lanes, which are scheduled for a fall completion. They, they'll tackle the reversible lanes in 2024, followed by the outbound lanes in 2025.

IDOT will have "smart work zone" set up, using changeable message signs to keep drivers aware of incidents and travel times.

You can find more information about the project here.