Holiday Traffic Hell Starts Thursday Afternoon
Traffic Experts Share Advice For Memorial Day Exodus
But perhaps, this Memorial Day, it’s going to be even more challenging than normal.
With an overabundance of road construction projects going on in the Chicagoland area, Chicagoans trying to leave the city for the long holiday weekend, could be facing even longer drive times than in recent years.
At least that’s what some traffic experts think.
“A lot of construction makes it (holiday traffic) a bit more difficult,” says WBBM Newsradio 780′s traffic reporter Joe Collins. “Be patient, there’s not much you can do about it.”
Illinois Department of Transportation Communications Manager Josh Kauffman agrees with Collins that traffic will be very heavy this Memorial Day holiday.
“Plan on the whole weekend being very busy,” said Kauffman when asked if construction projects will amplify traffic delays this year. “I think it’s something that needs to be taken into consideration.”
Collins, who has been giving Chicago radio listeners the lowdown on traffic jams since 1987, and has been WBBM Newsradio 780‘s afternoon traffic reporter since 2000. So Joe knows traffic.
Collins says the weekend traffic doesn’t start Friday.
In reality, the weekend traffic chaos steps off early Thursday afternoon.
Drivers, ironically, looking to avoid Friday’s mass vehicle exodus, will run into severe traffic starting as early as 2 PM Thursday according to Collins.
“People try to avoid Friday’s traffic by taking an extra day off and leaving Thursday,” explains Collins.
Plus holiday traffic also extends the length of already normally difficult rush hours on Chicago expressways until 8 or 9 PM.
“It gets pretty late before it begins to ease up on the expressways,” Collins says.
And despite the fact so many drivers leave the city early on Thursday afternoon, Collins says Friday traffic is traditionally just as bad.
Once the weekend is over, hundreds of thousands of drivers returning to the city will make Monday’s traffic a social experiment in bumper to bumper frustration. From early afternoon to around 9 PM on Memorial Day, getting back to the city will be very difficult and will try the patience of even the most even tempered drivers.
Perhaps the only bit of good news is that IDOT roadwork construction will come to a virtual halt over the holiday weekend to make things a tad easier.
Starting at 3 PM on Friday and continuing until midnight Monday night (after the brunt of the returning traffic has eased), no moving lane closures will be put in place, to allow for maximum traffic flow over the weekend.
“To minimize delays…we’re trying to eliminate lane closures unless there’s very large projects already underway,” explains Kauffman.
But Kauffman also reminds drivers of another important safety issue to be aware of–Click It Or Ticket.
There will be increased enforcement, both by local police departments and state troopers looking for drivers and passengers who are not wearing their safety belts.
“Please buckle up every trip, every time,” says Kauffman. “Then you won’t have to worry about a safety belt violation. Law enforcement agencies will be out in force both day and night.”
The IDOT spokesperson, with all the construction going on, also advises drivers to slow down in construction zones to maximize safety and prevent tickets.
So what advice do these traffic industry experts have for Chicago drivers this holiday weekend?
“Plan ahead,” says Kauffman. “Drivers should leave extra time to get to their destination.”
Collins recommends trying to adjust your travel schedule to coincide with lower traffic times.
“If you can figure out a time that’s a little bit lighter, it will make your trip easier,” says Collins. “But the big thing is patience. If you’re stick in traffic, there’s not much you can do about it.”
Words of traffic wisdom.
UPDATE: Marcus Gilmer over at Chicagost reminds us that President Obama flies back to Chicago with his family tonight.
Air Force One touches down at O’Hare at 7:15.
Unless the President flies by helicopter to downtown and then is driven to his home in Hyde Park, standard practice is to clear all expressways and streets for a presidential motorcade.
Thus, there is a very real possibility, on the eve of a big holiday weekend, traffic coming in on I-90 into downtown is going to be even more severely backed up from O’Hare all the way to the President’s home in Hyde Park.
It might be good advice to avoid I-90 from 7 to 9 this evening just in case.
HOLIDAY WEEKEND TRAFFIC TIPS
- Leave for, and return from, your trip at off peak hours
- Get on the road after the morning rush hour but before 2 PM Thursday or Friday
- If you leave Saturday, depart as early as possible
- When returning Monday, either get back early or return to the city after 9 PM
- Listen to radio traffic reports from stations like WBBM Newsradio 780 AM
- Consider less traveled, alternative routes to and from your destination