UPDATED 12/27/10 6:18 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – As the new year arrives, so will a new portion of the Wacker Drive reconstruction project.
WBBM Newsradio 780′s Steve Miller reports in the short-term, the project will be inconvenient. It will start between Randolph and Washington streets on both Upper and Lower Wacker Drive.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Steve Miller Reports
North-south Upper Wacker Drive is set to close between Randolph and Washington streets beginning Monday, Jan. 3. Lower Wacker Drive is already closed in the area.
The intersections on Randolph and Washington streets will also be closed to cars.
Commuters who walk to and from the train stations will be able to use all streets, except Washington.
The project will continue south from that point, according to Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Bobby Ware.
“This project will provide a myriad of benefits to motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians, including better lighting, landscaped medians and sidewalk planters, separate service drives with higher clearances on the lower levels, and a host of other improvements,” Ware said Monday.
Ware said safety is one reason for the work.
“The merges were very unsafe on Lower Wacker Drive and going into the interchange on Congress Parkway, so that reconfiguration is going to make it a much safer-traveled roadway,” Ware said.
For folks who are wondering what this will do to their commute, “I’d say prepare for a little bit of a challenge, but it’ll be OK if you wait a week or so,” said Ware.
A three-year project is currently underway to rebuild the upper and lower levels of Wacker Drive from Randolph Street to Congress Parkway.
North-south Lower Wacker Drive has been closed since April, making for frustration for commuters who use it as a shortcut from Lake Shore Drive to the Eisenhower Expressway. Lower Wacker Drive closed around the same time as a major reconstruction project shut down lanes on the Eisenhower and over the Congress Parkway bridge.
The current infrastructure of North-south Wacker Drive was built in the 1950s, and is in need of a complete reconstruction, CDOT has said.
A double-decker road along the Chicago River was part of Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan for Chicago. The east-west Wacker Drive was completed in 1926, replacing River Street and most of South Water Street, while the north-south leg was finished in 1954, replacing Market Street.
In 2001 and 2002, east-west Wacker Drive was rebuilt from Michigan Avenue to Randolph Street.
Plans for reconstruction of north-south Wacker Drive have been in the works for several years. In August 2005, CBS 2′s Susan Carlson reported that the city was promised $25 million in federal funds for the project, and that Mayor Richard M. Daley at the time hoped to break ground on the project in 2007 or 2008.
The currrent project should be done by the end of 2012, Ware said.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.