Stuck in the Circle Interchange, 2012
Dear motorists in Chicago: brace yourself. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced yesterday the first step towards bringing us to the brink of an all out disaster- an initial study into the reconstruction of the Circle Interchange.
For motorists unaware of what the Circle Interchange is, it's one of the nation's busiest interchanges, bringing major highway arteries together, linking the suburbs to downtown Chicago. If you've driven near downtown Chicago, odds are you've driven on the pavement before.
The governor announced the massive $40-million study- yes $40 mills for a study- that would be initiated by a joint venture of
Transystems on everything that will need to be performed before any hard labor begins. According to the governor's press release, "the studies will take approximately two years to complete. During the study process, IDOT will be seeking input from key stakeholders, including the City of Chicago, the Chicago Transit Authority, the University of Illinois at Chicago and nearby neighborhoods and businesses."
In the release, it is mentioned that this project is perhaps 50 years overdue, mentioning that the interchange's key components have not been upgraded since they were first built in the 1950's and 60's. This comes on the heels of a 2010 report by the Federal Highway Administration that bills the Circle Interchange as the nation's #1 bottleneck everyday, with transportation operating at well below ideal speeds for the equivalent of 217 days a year, or 14 hours a day.
Preliminary studies say that building additional ramp capacity could lower congestion by nearly 30%. As an Illinois motorist who lives just minutes from this virtual parking lot, I can say I don't think anyone will look forward to the mess this will one day make, but I look forward to a day when I'm not stuck in a pool of cars making the same 0-mph movement as I am.