Circle Interchange project will affect UIC parking, access

Circle interchange

The Circle Interchange is one of the nation’s worst bottlenecks, say transportation experts.

The Circle Interchange is about to change.

The complex connection — which links the Dan Ryan Expressway to the south, Eisenhower Expressway to the west, Congress Parkway to the east and Kennedy Expressway to the north — has not undergone major construction since its completion in the early 1960s.

Next month, a new $475 million renovation of the interchange is scheduled to begin. While the repairs will not be complete for at least four years, construction is planned in phases to minimize the disruption to commerce and traffic.

The first phase is tentatively scheduled to begin in September, with the reconstruction of the Morgan Street bridge between Harrison and Van Buren streets.

To accommodate Illinois Department of Transportation equipment and vehicles, parking will not be permitted in the 37-space Lot 9A at the corner of Harrison and Morgan streets during this initial phase.

Drivers currently using Lot 9A can park in the adjacent Lot 9.

Lot 9 will have a new temporary entrance on Morgan Street, south of the existing driveway.

Both intercampus and commuter shuttles are not expected to be affected by the initial construction.

Right after Labor Day, IDOT will begin collecting soil samples from 19 different sites adjacent to the Peoria Street bridge near the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs and south of the CTA Blue Line station. The soil will be tested for contaminants, which will determine whether the dirt can be reused.

The project’s next phase will involve the bridges on Halsted and the western portion of Harrison Street.

Subsequent phases of bridge demolition and reconstruction include the Peoria Street pedestrian bridge; the Harrison Street (east) bridge; the Taylor Street bridge; the Van Buren and Monroe Street bridges; and the Jackson Boulevard and Adams Street bridges.

The project will add at least four lanes in each direction on I-90/94 at the I-290/Congress Parkway to correct lane balance issues; two lanes on the north-to-west and east-to-north ramps to improve safety and mobility; and local access lanes for both northbound and southbound I-90/94 to improve safety and mobility.

The ramps will be reconfigured to provide safer and more efficient traffic flow. The new design will include bicycle lanes, wider sidewalks and improved access to transit.

The Circle Interchange is a hub for local, regional and national freight traffic. Of the more than 400,000 vehicles that travel through the Circle Interchange daily, 33,000 are trucks.

The interchange is one of the slowest and most congested highway freight bottlenecks in the United States, according to the American Transportation Research Institute and the Federal Highway Administration.

Its high traffic volumes, single lane ramps and tight curves cause frequent traffic jams, and an average of more than 1,100 crashes are reported annually at the interchange.

Transportation planners estimate the improvements will reduce traffic delays by at least 50 percent and save drivers 5 million hours annually, leading to a savings of 1.6 million gallons of fuel per year.

More information and updates will be available online as the project continues.

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