Reporting Bob Roberts
CHICAGO (CBS) — Comments were overwhelmingly favorable Thursday at the final public hearing on the $475 million plan to rebuild the 50-year-old Circle interchange.
Construction unions voiced uniformly enthusiastic approval. So did University of Illinois at Chicago Urban Transportation Center Executive Director Steve Schlickman, a former RTA executive director. Grant Park Conservancy President Bob O’Neill said as designed, it will help connect the West Loop and Greektown areas with the Loop and lakefront.
For business owners such as the Roderick Group’s Rashod Johnson, it means more productivity and fewer worries about getting employees to and from work.
“We make sure (now) that we schedule meetings around traffic,” he said. “We can’t have meetings in our office after 3 o’clock because we know that no one’s going to be able to make it. We can’t have meetings before 10 o’clock because no one’s going to be able to make it. Everyone’s always going to be late.”
Johnson said he gives new employees a pre-printed page of “shortcuts” to help them get around traffic from the north, south or west of the firm’s office at 921 W. Van Buren St.
Several speakers brought up recent studies that show that the Circle interchange is the biggest freight traffic bottleneck in the nation. An estimated 33,000 trucks are among the 400,000 vehicles that use the interchange on an average weekday.
The only opponents were those who live in the shadow of the interchange, such as Ann Brodley, of 411 S. Sangamon St., who were especially critical of the “flyover” ramps that are built into the new design.
“The highway will move from 60 feet away from the buildings to 20 feet away from the buildings,” she said. “We’ve been told that this might affect the structure of our building.”
Madhuri Patel, of 701 W. Jackson Blvd., said, “People don’t want to be under the highway,” and predicted that it would hurt Greektown businesses.
The project now moves to design phase. The first construction, at Monroe Street, could begin before year’s end, with heavy construction on the interchange itself to begin in 2015. Completion is anticipated by 2019.