Illinois and Chicago officials are putting the final touches on plans to reconstruct the Circle Interchange where the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Dan Ryan expressways come together. But, will a new design lead to better outcomes?
But other urban planning experts criticized the agency’s decision, saying the claimed benefits of the Circle project were not put to a rigorous test. For instance, it’s highly unlikely that IDOT’s estimate of at least a 50 percent reduction in traffic delays on the three expressways would materialize, some independent experts said.The Circle project also scored poorly on criteria designed to determine whether ridership on public transit and access to transit would be enhanced by the work, the experts said.
“The data that CMAP made available showed that this project would not produce a significant return on investment,” said MarySue Barrett, president of the Metropolitan Planning Council, a nonprofit group that promotes sustainable transportation and land-use policies…
IDOT officials insist that Alternative 7.1C would do the best job of reducing congestion, bottlenecks and crashes, leading to faster and safer commutes, according to traffic modeling that simulated the estimated 400,000 cars and trucks that travel over the Circle Interchange each weekday.
An average of almost three accidents a day occur in the vicinity of the Circle, which is also the slowest and most congested highway freight bottleneck in the U.S., according to the Federal Highway Administration.
It sounds like there are actually two conversations going on:
1. How to improve this specific stretch of road. The primary emphasis seems to be on adding lanes, both for the Kennedy and Dan Ryan through the area as well as for the congested ramps. Of course, adding lanes it not necessarily a panacea – drivers tend to fill in the supply that new lanes provide.
2. How this stretch of road fits in with larger traffic concerns in the Chicago area. It is one thing to reduce congestion at this particular point but another to improve mass transit on a broader scale that would help reduce demand for this traffic bottleneck. Traffic could be viewed as a region-wide issue where policymakers could try to reduce the number of highway trips through this area. Some would argue Americans have tended to privilege trying to fix roads rather than tackle the larger issues of why congestion occurs in the first place.
Four years of major construction is a long time to wait if the alterations don’t change much in the long run…
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