Friday, March 03, 2006

Dan Ryan Construction: Ironic Headline

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is preparing for a huge reconstruction project on the region's busiest highway, the Dan Ryan Expressway (I-90/94). All of the express lanes will be closed, leaving only three lanes open in each direction and cutting the road's capacity in half. IDOT wants cars to use alternate routes and keep trucks on the narrowed highway. The Chicago Tribune ran a story yesterday titled "IDOT's plea: Stay off the Ryan." But the headline on today's follow-up cracked me up:

State lacks backup plan on Dan Ryan

Of course, the state does have a backup plan -- to simply let traffic back up!

This is going to be such a mess. The Dan Ryan is busy all day at full capacity -- I have driven home at 4 AM just to avoid the traffic. The alternatives on Chicago's South Side just aren't good. Many adjacent neighborhoods are marginal or downright scary. I can imagine an out-of-towner becoming frustrated by the traffic and exiting the highway only to find himself in a really bad situation. And it's not as if the alternate routes are underused right now. The construction could turn every major north-south street on the South Side into a parking lot.

My advice to out-of-towners: if you're just passing through, cough up the cash to drive on the Tri-State Tollway. That goes for anyone going to the suburbs -- you have no reason to drive through downtown Chicago to get there. If you do have to go downtown, do you really need a car? Check out the Metra commuter trains and the South Shore Line, which runs from South Bend to downtown Chicago. There is also construction on both the Kingery Expressway (I-80/94) and the Chicago Skyway (I-90), so your best bet coming from the east would be to park at a South Shore station (the line runs parallel to the Indiana Toll Road) and take the train.

Dan Ryan construction is scheduled for completion in late 2007. For more information, check out the highway's Web site.

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