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$150 million Kennedy Expressway construction project begins Monday

Major Kennedy Expressway rehab project begins Monday
Major Kennedy Expressway rehab project begins Monday 02:11

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Traffic on the Kennedy Expressway is about to become a whole new world of hurt for commuters come Monday night, as workers begin a lengthy construction project.

The Illinois Department of Transportation said the Kennedy will be under construction for three years.

The first phase, beginning March 20, involves a major overhaul of the inbound lanes between where the Kennedy and Edens expressways merge all the way south to Ohio Street.

"Rehabilitating the decks is going to make that a much smoother commute," IDOT District 1 bureau chief of construction Jon Schumacher said.

The plan is to replace the top level of concrete, or deck, on all lanes of the inbound Kennedy. 

Lane closures begin at 10 p.m. Monday. From the Edens junction to Ohio Street, the two left local inbound lanes will be closed until mid-July. Then, from July through December, the remaining right local inbound lanes will be closed, with a rolling closure of the on and off ramps on the inbound Kennedy. During the entire first phase of the project, the reversible express lanes will be locked inbound to alleviate excess traffic buildup during construction. Crews also will be installing new signs and LED lighting.

The first phase of the project is expected to be complete by the end of this year.

Next, workers will close the reversible express lanes for repaving next year, while also rehabbing 36 bridges along the Kennedy. Some local inbound and outbound lanes will be closed during this phase to allow crews to install new LED lighting in both directions.

Then, in the final phase of the project, IDOT will resurface the outbound lanes of the Kennedy in the same process as the inbound side, starting with the two left local outbound lanes, before repaving the remaining local outbound lanes, while the reversible express lanes will be locked in outbound during work on the local outbound lanes in 2025. 

The entire project is expected to be complete by late fall 2025.

$150 million Kennedy expressway rehab starts Monday 02:37

"They're giving themselves a pretty generous timeline here. They're going to feel pressure to meet that," DePaul University transportation professor Joe Schwieterman said. "I think they'll stick to that timetable, but that said, three years is still an interminably long period for people that use that road day-in and day-out."

In all, IDOT will be replacing the top level of concrete on 7.5 miles of the Kennedy Expressway in each direction, for a total cost of about $150 million. 

"A typical lifespan for a roadway is about 40 years, and we would anticipate after 20 years we do a rehabilitation project, and then after 40 years we do reconstruction project. These decks are over 50 years old already, and our last major rehabilitation was back in the early 90s," Schumacher said.

3-year Kennedy Expressway overhaul begins Monday night 01:38

Approximately 270,000 vehicles use the Kennedy Expressway each day.

Commuters said traffic is already terrible on the Kennedy, so this project will only make the next three years even worse.

"It's gonna be too much traffic," Oscar Chielea said.

"A lot of people need to get on the expressway. A lot of people need to get on the train. It's gonna be too packed. Trains don't go all the way, so it's gonna be crowded. Ubers and taxis are gonna get a lot of calls," Joseph Jones said.

Schwieterman said the Kennedy project poses an added challenge when it comes to the impact on traffic.

"It runs diagonal, so it's hard to divert to other roads," he said.

Schwieterman said he expects a lot of drivers will try to use Milwaukee Avenue, which already has a lot of car and bike traffic, so that will cause concerns for those neighborhoods.

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