Jane Byrne Interchange substantially complete; Gov. Pritzker attends ribbon cutting

IDOT says local traffic expected to improve by 50%

Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Jane Byrne Interchange work substantially complete
The Chicago traffic report is expected to improve as the Jane Byrne Interchange is considered complete. Pritzker attended a ribbon cutting.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the long-awaited completion of the Jane Byrne Interchange on Wednesday.

The original Circle Interchange was built in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and had no major overaul until the reconstruction project began in 2013. The project took nearly a decade to complete.

After eight years, the project to overhaul the entire interchange, where three expressways meet, is now substantially complete. It was slated to be complete in 2017, with a price tag of $535 million. It will end up costing $806 million.

"The goal was to get it done as fast as possible and at the time we were doing the project at the planning stage and during the planning stage that's only 30% level of engineering detail," said John Baczek, IDOT program development engineer.

In order to keep traffic moving, maintain access to the CTA, to UIC and all the city events, the construction schedule had to be re-evaluated. Unexpected issues with utilities, water, and poor soil added to the cost and time early on; COVID, supply chain and labor issues more recently. Still, the benefits outweigh the construction struggles.

"As we were starting construction back in 2013 the I-55 and LSD interchange project was also under construction, and that project was running a little behind schedule. And we didn't want to have two major access points in and out of the city to be impacted and closed with major traffic disruptions," said John Vaczek, an engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation.

SEE MORE: Jackson, Adams bridges over Kennedy reopen as Jane Byrne Interchange work nears end after 9 years

The Illinois Department of Transportation said the new changes to the interchange will reduce serious injury crashes by 25%, and reduce traffic congestion by 50%.

Although most of the work will be complete Wednesday, four final ramps may not open until next week.

"The Jane Byrne Interchange was one of the most complex projects in the country and most significant ever at IDOT. I'm proud and happy that we could deliver these improvements and benefits," Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said.

Named after Jane Byrne to honor the former Chicago mayor and the first woman elected to lead a major American city, the interchange serves almost 400,000 vehicles a day, one out of four of those being trucks, Gov. JB Pritzker's office said.

Prior to its reconstruction, the interchange struggled to perform under its original 1958 design, resulting in congestion for the majority of the day and frequent unsafe conditions, according to the governor's office.

The American Transportation Research Institute and the Federal Highway Administration at one point rated the interchange the country's No. 1 bottleneck for freight.

Construction started on the new Jane Byrne in 2013 with the Morgan Street Bridge, the first of 10 bridges carrying local traffic that needed to be rebuilt to accommodate the interchange's reconfigured footprint.

To keep the interchange open to traffic throughout construction, the project was separated into 35 separate pieces and contracts to best manage sequencing and staging.

The governor's office detailed the changes made in the last eight years:

- A total of 19 bridges and 21 ramps reconstructed or rehabilitated.

- A new northbound collector-distributor road on the Dan Ryan and Kennedy expressways to reduce conflict points as well as frequent weaving and merging by relocating the left-hand entrance ramps at Jackson and Adams streets and separating the exits ramps to Washington Boulevard, Lake, Madison, and Randolph streets from mainline traffic.

- A new storm water detention system under the Polk Street accident investigation site, providing additional storage capacity for runoff during rain events, helping to reduce localized flooding.

- An additional lane in each direction to the mainline Kennedy and Dan Ryan, increasing capacity and reducing congestion.

- An additional lane to the inbound Eisenhower ramp to the outbound Kennedy and to the inbound Dan Ryan flyover ramp to the outbound Eisenhower.

- Wider ramps to replace single-lane ramps with no shoulders, providing additional room for first responders and stalled vehicles.

- Local bridges rebuilt with either wider sidewalks, bike lanes or both at Harrison, Morgan,

- Taylor and Halsted streets as well as Jackson Boulevard, meeting the goals of the Chicago Department of Transportation's Chicago Streets for Cycling plan.

- Peoria Street bridge rebuilt as an expansive walkway, with the Blue Line's UIC-Halsted station rehabilitated and an elevator added to provide access for customers with disabilities. A bus-only lane was added to Van Buren Street.

- New LED lighting and improved signage for easier navigation, along with reconstructed or rehabilitated retaining and noise walls throughout the project area.

- A $10 million expansion of green spaces, including retaining wall vines, aesthetic upgrades, landscaping and tree plantings.

The ribbon cutting took place Wednesday morning in Greektown. Gov. JB Pritzker and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle were in attendance.

Governor JB Pritzker and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle discuss the end of construction of the Jane Byrne Interchange project.