CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s years overdue and still far from completion, but the Illinois Department of Transportation said the pricey Jane Byrne Interchange Project will reach some major milestones in the days and weeks ahead.

As CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas reported, the state plans to open up some ramps with the hope of easing congestion.

Orange, the color for road construction signs and traffic barriers, is also the color of frustration for drivers who have been navigating detours and traffic jams in the area.

“I use the ramps almost every day,” said motorist Anne Snow. “Usually it slows down a lot and I have to change lanes, so it’d be nice if people can get to where they need to go.”

The massive construction project started in 2013 and was supposed to be completed in 2018. After a series of delays, the finish line was pushed back to late 2022 – which still stands, according to IDOT engineer Steve Travia.

“As we got into looking at just this massive undertaking, it just became apparent that to do this and keep the city open for business was going to take a little but more effort,” Travia said.

IDOT said on Thursday morning, they will reopen the ramp from the inbound Eisenhower Expressway to the outbound Kennedy Expressway so drivers can avoid the Taylor Street detour.

Later this month, the ramp from outbound Ida B. Wells Drive to the outbound Kennedy will open.

“Wonderful,” Snow said. “The sooner the better.”

McNicholas asked DePaul University transportation professor Joe Schwieterman how big a deal it will be that the ramps will be back open.

“It’s nice to have some good news on the congestion front,” Schwieterman said. “It’s not going to be a cure-all, but finally we’re going to see some traffic move at the inbound downtown traffic where things are often at a bumper-to-bumper.”

The price tag has also grown since 2013. It was initially estimated at $535 million, and now Travia said it is about $800 million.

The state said there could be some traffic delays as drivers adjust to the changes. They are asking everyone to be prepared and alert.

IDOT said fewer drivers during the pandemic and the recent dry weather have actually helped them open the ramps. But there is still a lot of work to go on both the Kennedy and Dan Ryan expressways over the next two years.

 

Tim McNicholas