Updated 11/30/12 – 10:38 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – — After several years of re-construction, the north-south section of Wacker Drive opened to traffic in downtown Chicago this morning.
The intersection of Upper Wacker Drive and Van Buren Street re-opened to traffic around 9 a.m., and Lower Wacker re-opened to traffic around 2 p.m.
The reconstruction of the double-deck artery between Randolph Street and Congress Parkway cost around $300 million.
The Van Buren intersection on Upper Wacker had been closed since July. The north-south leg Lower Wacker Drive had been closed since 2010.
“I’ve been watching it being built for 2 ½ years,” cyclist Andrew Coffman said. He rode his bike along the rebuilt Wacker Drive early Friday to highlight the new cement lanes on the Van Buren Street Bridge.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya Reports
The vast majority of funding for the Wacker Drive project came from state and federal aid, but the city invested about $3 million.
Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said the $300 million project was completed “on budget, on time. We may even be a few days early.”
On average about 66,000 vehicles a day use the stretch of Wacker between Randolph and Congress.
U.S. Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari said, “Wacker Drive is not only an iconic part of the Windy City, it’s a critical thoroughfare; 66,000 drivers and 140,000 pedestrians a day use this. And you can just imagine, after six decades of use, there was a real need for major repair.”
Construction crews put in 2 ½ years of work on the project.
Gov. Pat Quinn said, “It took a lot of effort, including through a bad snow storm on ground hog day 2011, and flooding.”
But it all came together
“There’s that old saying: no pain, no gain,” Klein said.
Now drivers will be able to use both upper and lower of the entire stretch of Wacker Drive, which curves around the western and northern edges of the Loop, between Congress Parkway and Lake Shore Drive. It’s a popular shortcut for drivers trying to avoid downtown traffic congestion.
Motorist Mike Pierce said, “I had to give wife a ride, and we didn’t know whether Wacker was open or not, and now I see all these yellow jackets. It’s really exciting to have it back.”
For pedestrians, it meant the end to long detours and temporary sidewalks that were put in place while Wacker Drive intersections were rebuilt.
Yolonda Horton said, “I’m very excited. We have had to detour so long.”
Rick Morshes said, “Now I don’t have about five more blocks to walk, and all that, so I can get straight to my office.”
It’s not the upper, but the lower stretch of Wacker Drive that had the governor facetiously labeling the roadway “The Eighth Wonder of the World.”