Construction on Kennedy Expressway in Chicago begins Monday
CHICAGO - A three-year Kennedy Expressway construction project will begin Monday night that’s sure to wreak havoc with commutes as the work is done all the way from the junction with the Edens Expressway to Ohio Street.
Stretches of the two inbound left lanes will be closed until July. Then, the work will shift and shut down stretches of the two right lanes until construction season ends in the fall.
The impact of the $150 million construction project should hit home as drivers head downtown Tuesday morning, said Maria Castaneda, a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Transportation. Expect major delays.
"Every day when you’re driving, you’re going to notice a change," Castaneda said. "You’re going to notice that your available lanes are going to be less and less as we go each stage."
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To try to lessen the impact, while the two inbound lanes are closed, the express lanes will be inbound-only. That should help people heading south. But it also means the express lanes won’t be switched to outbound as normally is done.
IDOT is urging people to use mass transit if possible or, if you’re heading downtown in the morning, wake up much earlier because your drive is going to take much longer.
"In the morning, definitely give yourself much more time," Castaneda said. "Clearly, there’s going to be people who cannot change their schedule no matter what. But, if you can vary your times when you commute in and out, we’re asking you to do that."
Once the lanes are closed, IDOT will demolish and replace bridges along the expressway. It takes about a week to take down a bridge and five weeks to build a new one.
Ramps and exits won’t be affected for now, Castaneda said.
But she said "some of the bigger mainlining roads that feed into the expressway" are sure "to get backed up."
The project will take place over three consecutive construction seasons, each stretching from spring into the fall season, ending in the year 2025. IDOT said drivers can expect the construction to happen in three stages:
Stage I – Inbound Kennedy
The first phase of the project begins Monday, and will focus on the inbound stretch of the Kennedy. The two left lanes will be closed until work is completed in July, at which point work will switch to the two right lanes. Drivers should expect lane shifts and overnight lane closure, along with various ramp closures.
To help minimize the impact on traffic, the reversible express lanes will remain open in the inbound direction.
Later this summer, painting and the installation of new LED lighting will begin along the inbound lanes in Hubbard’s Cave between Ohio and Lake streets.
Construction is expected to be completed this fall, with all lanes and ramps reopening and the express lanes resuming normal operations.
Stage II – Reversible Express Lanes
Construction in 2024 will focus on reversible express lanes, which will be closed to rehab the roadway and modernize the 52-year-old system that controls the gates to the express lanes.
Some mainline lane closures will be needed to accommodate painting and the installation of new lighting in both directions of Hubbard’s Cave. Construction is anticipated to begin in spring 2024 and be completed in fall 2024.
Stage III – Outbound Kennedy
Construction in 2025 will focus on outbound lanes. Two lanes will be closed from March to July before working on the other two lanes until construction wraps for the year in the fall. The reversible express lanes will remain open in the outbound direction. Lane shifts and overnight lane closure, along with various ramp closures will be needed to complete the work.
Additionally, new LED lighting installation and painting will be completed on outbound Hubbard’s Cave, between Ohio and Lake streets. Construction is anticipated to begin in spring 2025 and be completed in late fall 2025.
Also, 36 bridge structures along the 7.5-mile stretch of roadway are slated for rehab work.
The Kennedy Expressway opened in 1960. Its last major project occurred in 1994. It carries an estimated 275,000 motorists daily.
The upcoming rehab project is set to begin a little more than eight weeks after the Jane Byrne Interchange reopened after 10 years of construction, which included multiple setbacks in its completion date.