Work on the Dan Ryan Expressway came to an end for winter as crews reopened all lanes at the half-way point for the main line.
“They’re taking a break for winter,” Mike Claffey, Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) spokesman, said. “They’ll be back in March.”
However, Claffey indicated that some workers will remain on the job through the winter, reconstructing four ramps and the bridge at 33rd Street. Work must be done prior to April 1, the start of baseball season, because those ramps are major access points to U.S. Cellular Field, home of the White Sox.
IDOT’s project is part of the Dan Ryan Expressway reconstruction project from 13th Street to the I-57/Bishop Ford (I-90) interchange. The 14-lane expressway, which opened Dec. 15, 1962, ranks as Chicago’s busiest — and one of the most congested in the nation.
The expressway was constructed with a “dual-dual” design, which consisted of seven-lane widths in each direction split into four lanes of high-speed through traffic and three lanes of collector-distributor traffic. With 320,000 vehicles traveling on it daily, the road surpassed its intended design life by more than 20 years.
The project costs the state more than $600 million for the improvements to the expressway, named for Dan Ryan, president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, one of the prime movers of the expressway system in Chicago.
The new expressway will include an additional lane in each direction, new storm sewers, a reconfigured Skyway interchange and upgrades to the local access roads that run parallel to the expressway.
IDOT’s goals for the reconstruction include improving motorists’ safety by reducing accident rates and relieving congestion, reducing commute time, rebuilding deteriorating pavement, eliminating flooding and creating jobs.
In addition, IDOT accomplished reconstruction of local access roads between 47th and 63rd streets, synchronized timing of traffic lights; addition of designated turn lanes at 55th and 67th, improved curb design on local access road improved pedestrian accommodations surrounding CTA stations; and improved landscaping of local access roads.
Traffic Flow Chart: Work Completed by 2006
IDOT rebuilt much of South Lake Shore Drive and Stony Island Avenue and improved frontage roads adjacent to the expressway.
“The first two years [2004-2005], we were working on ramps, retaining walls, bridges and the ramp to the Skyway,” Claffey said.
IDOT reconstructed and added new signal timings on Lafayette, State and Wentworth, Wells between 67th and 47th streets, and major alternate routes.
IDOT spent two years planning for what authorities have called “the most complicated and most trying road project ever,” according to the Associated Press. IDOT launched a massive media campaign to help spread the word about the reconstruction and reached out to local businesses and community members.
Walsh Construction Co., the project’s general contractor, did its part to ease congestion by constructing six temporary ramps so the approximately 300 construction trucks would not have to blend with traffic.
In addition to addressing congestion, IDOT focused on safety, implementing photo enforcement of the 45-mph work zone speed. The first offense costs a driver $375; a second offense runs $1,000.
“It’s been beneficial in getting people to slow down,” Claffey said. “Work zone speeding is dangerous for drivers as well as workers. Workers are behind concrete barriers, so they’re protected. But with narrow lanes and no shoulder, drivers could get into real trouble if they’re not careful.”
Another aspect of the project that had received positive attention was the “green” clause. Because one of the issues that arose from those community meetings was a health concern about air quality, the IDOT contracts called for use of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel to reduce emissions. IDOT also instituted five-minute idling limits and dust controls in order to reduce construction-related air emissions. To further reduce dust, Walsh circulated water through tanks on a daily basis.
Cited as one of the most environmentally friendly construction projects in the nation, the Dan Ryan project incorporated a provision slated to be federally mandated in 2010 ahead of schedule.
The “Clean Air Construction Initiative” was launched last year and funded in part through a $60,000 federal grant from the EPA. The initiative was the result of recommendations from health and environmental focus groups and partnerships with the U.S. and Illinois environmental protection agencies, Chicago public schools, the American Lung Association and local community agencies. Its purpose was to reduce emissions from heavy equipment and trucks during construction in order to maintain the health of area residents.
IDOT used its tighter construction equipment emission standards for the first time. It required heavy construction equipment to be retrofitted with devices designed to reduce harmful emissions or use ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, which is significantly cleaner than regular diesel fuel. The change affected approximately 300 pieces of equipment that were on the job site on any given day.
“The cost is minimal, and it’s simply the right thing to do,” Claffey said. He anticipated that these regulation would be used for the upcoming project at O’Hare Airport.
Year in Review: 2006 Summary
Claffey indicated that this year’s work targeted mainline reconstruction was “ripping up old road and replacing it with reinforced concrete.” The busy expressway was reduced to approximately half its normal capacity, with 9 mi. (14.5 km) of express lanes closed and much of the traffic rerouted to local lanes.
The project was broken into three sections: 12th Street to 31st Street, an elevated four-lane section known as the “Dan Ryan Bridge” over the Chicago River; 31st Street to 71st Street, which includes four express lanes and three local lanes in each direction; and 71st Street to 95th Street, with four lanes in each direction.
The elevated lanes in the first section underwent concrete resurfacing and replacement of steel bridge joists, but the express lanes were completely ripped out and reconstructed.
“It’s a significant improvement,” Claffey explained. Previously consisting of 10 in. (25.4 cm) of concrete, the section was now made up of 14 in. (35.6 cm) of concrete on top of 2 ft. (.6 m) of crushed rock base and a layer of asphalt.
Next year, traffic will be shifted to the new express lanes while the local lanes undergo the same treatment and an additional lane is added between 47th and 95th streets.
The third section is still in progress. This year traffic was shifted to the inside lanes while the outside lanes experienced a complete reconstruction. Next year, the pattern will be flip-flopped: traffic flow will be shifted to the outside lanes while work is conducted on the inside lanes.
Work on the outbound lanes was finished in early November and everything would have been completed by Dec. 1. Despite having conducted a survey to see the bedrock, crews unexpectedly found bedrock in the north-bound express lanes.
“It added two weeks to the schedule because we had to lay storm sewers,” Caffey said. “Our big goal was to improve drainage because there’s a flood problem in this area.”
Overall, however, Claffey said the project is going well and is expected to finish on time next year.