IDOT rendering
Motorists in Chicago, Illinois and those who traverse the major thoroughfares that run through the city may get some relief in the near future: the Illinois Department of Transportation is almost finished with its planning on the reconstruction of the interchange.

According to IDOT, over 400,000 vehicles travel though the Circle Interchange, including 33,000 trucks. The interchange is a complex web of offramps, merge lanes, and lanes of general traffic between the Dan Ryan, Eisenhower, and Kennedy Expressways. In a report in 2002, the Federal Highway Administration ranked the interchange the third worst in the nation for congestion, with 25 million hours being wasted every year due to delays and backups. It is also one of the nation's worst bottlenecks as rated in a 2004 Popular Mechanics article.

The interchange experiences breakdown conditions for many hours of the day, causing substantial backups in every direction. As a result, it was ranked as the No. 1 freight bottleneck in the country based on a study completed by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Freight Management and Operations.

According to an IDOT press release, the preferred alternative for the Circle Interchange Improvement project will provide numerous benefits. Thousands of local jobs will be supported with an infrastructure investment of this size. Other benefits include up to a 50% reduction in delay for all vehicles over the course of the day. This will result in a reduction of up to 5 million hours annually of drivers sitting in congested traffic and 24,000 metric tons of CO2. The reduction of idle time will save up to 1.6 million gallons of gasoline as well as up to $185 million in lost production from delayed travelers annually.

While it will still be several years before concrete is poured, the complex planning of a rebuilt interchange is certainly significant in and of itself. Construction, once it begins, will take four years to complete, and cost over $400 million.

For more information on the project, check out circleinterchange.org.