After months of gritting their teeth through a construction chokehold, Chicago drivers are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The Kennedy Expressway is gearing up to fully reopen its inbound lanes following the wrap-up of the first phase of a massive overhaul that's tested the patience of daily commuters. With the dust set to settle soon, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has earmarked this Sunday for a return to a state of normalcy, as per NBC Chicago.
The first phase of construction commenced in March and has had more than just a significant impact on the inbound Kennedy from O'Hare Airport and surrounding suburbs—it's been a major pain. Intense traffic stalemates will soon ease off, with IDOT spokesperson Maria Castaneda confirming to NBC Chicago, "by 8 a.m. Sunday, the inbound Kennedy and Edens expressways as well as lanes and ramps will be fully reopened."
The $150 million project not only targets Kennedy's pavement but extends its meticulous hands to bridge rehab and lighting overhauls—a necessary tonic for the aged infrastructure that hasn't seen major work since 1994, as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times. With 36 bridges revamped, the upgrade hopes to smooth the ride for the 275,000 vehicles rolling down this central artery daily.
In the run-up to this Sunday's grand reopening, certain nighttime closures will still snag drivers. The inbound Kennedy narrowed to one lane Thursday at 8 p.m. between Kimball and Milwaukee avenues, and according to the Chicago Sun-Times, "reversible express lane entrances at Montrose Avenue will be closed." Accessible express lanes will however switch open at Diversey Avenue, with weather-permitting Monday night's closures ushering in the final act of Phase 1.
Before commuters get too comfortable with their reclaimed asphalt freedom, IDOT has plans for Phase 2. Castaneda warned NBC Chicago that the next construction chapter will kick off in the spring of 2024, weather permitting—an inevitable sequel that will focus on further enhancements and, yes, more temporary lane closures.