I dread these ramps


Actually, since I live so close to them, I usually just avoid them altogether, and add 4-5 minutes to my journey (and 4-5 years to my life) by driving to a different ramp.

Formal and solemn revocation

Daily Herald | Cook County:
The ramps from Chicago's downtown roads onto the Kennedy Expressway spit cars into a left lane buzzing with speeding sedans and trucks.

Drivers have a second, maybe two, to decide whether to swerve into the aggressive traffic and slam the gas or jam the brake and hope drivers behind notice.

What many drivers may not know, however, is that the state has had a plan to fix the dangerously short merges since 1995, but it really won't get done until around 2011 or 2012.
In fact, the state cut off ramps to two of the downtown bridges over the Kennedy in a project state transportation officials said would increase safety. Yet, the project was not finished because of nearby Dan Ryan construction and the full safety improvements have yet to materialize.

“That stretch remains a good example of poor planning compounded by the slow pace of modernization,” said Joe Schwieterman, director of DePaul University's Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development. “For motorists, it is one of the trickiest choke points in the city.”

The Kennedy lanes near the rapid succession of left-lane entrance ramps - at Jackson Boulevard, Adams Street, Madison Street, Monroe Street and Washington Boulevard - have been prone to crashes.

Somehow, the scariest highway ramps in the entire city are not worth fixing immediately.

traffic moon

The existing three northbound left-lane merges and three southbound left-lane merges have been in place since at least the mid-1960s, says Joseph Schofer, interim director of Northwestern University's Transportation Center.

“They are scary ramps. They are very short and they don't meet design standards,” he said. “That is the kind of compromise you make to squeeze in the access.”

In 1995, IDOT officials drafted a plan to fix the short-merge problem by removing some ramps and then using the extra road space to extend the remaining left-lane merges.

The project would not finally begin until 10 years later. Crews closed off the left-lane entrance ramps at Washington Boulevard and Monroe Street in 2005 and 2006, respectively, as Chicago was rebuilding those bridges.

Yet, large chunks of those unused ramps still remain on the ground, growing weeds and blocking vehicles merging from bridges to the north and south.

If those hulks of concrete were removed, the left-lane merges from Madison Street and Adams Street could be lengthened from about 170 feet to about 520 feet, giving drivers more time to negotiate the speeding traffic. The average merge length is about 1,000 feet.

IDOT spokeswoman Marisa Kollias said the job wasn't finished in 2006 because reducing lanes for construction would further hamper traffic during the Dan Ryan Expressway rebuild. That two-year project ends this winter.

Instead, IDOT officials have tucked the $7 million project into the middle of their five-year construction plan, so crews may not get around to finishing the job until 2011 or 2012.

That has planners like Schwieterman perturbed.

“It is hard to believe it takes five years to clear away those kinds of traffic hazards,” he said. “This is a recipe for chronic accidents.”

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I have to say that I've never had any problems merging into traffic from these ramps.

And besides, when is there not so much traffic that the "merge" is a 5 mph crawl? :)

Well, rush hour is the exception, I suppose. At 10:30 am, the left hand lane is cruising at 75 mph, and unless your car has excellent pickup - you are sweating a bit. 450 accidents a year is more than an accident a day. Yikes.

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This page contains a single entry by swanksalot published on July 31, 2007 2:42 PM.

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