Traffic picks up with more people on the roads, IDOT says

The traffic in the past couple weeks has been just as heavy as before the COVID-19 pandemic, if not worse.

Video Transcript

ROZ VARON: And you know, while I am reporting on the current rush hour conditions, I also have been monitoring the changes in the traffic patterns over the past year, year and a half. And in just the past couple of weeks, I have noticed that traffic has gotten just as heavy as pre-pandemic, if not worse.

Grab your patience before you hit the highway. Traffic patterns are changing again, with a lot more company on the roads and much higher travel times.

MARIA CASTANEDA: Looking at comparing April of this year to April of last year, there is definitely an increase. In some cases, almost double. Now looking further back, to comparing this year to 2019, we're not quite there. We're still about 10 minutes short of the average morning rush hour times in. However, it's gradually bumping up there.

ROZ VARON: Take the Stevenson, for example. In April 2019 at 8:00 AM, the average travel time from the tri-state to the Dan Ryan was 43 minutes. In 2020, that same trip was only 19 minutes. And this year the average travel time in April, 33 minutes.

Comparing the number of trips in just the last four months to pre-COVID levels, January still had 35% fewer trips, 28% less in February, 14% in March, and only 6% fewer trips in April. For those who have not been on the expressways in over a year, what concerns does IDOT have. Because things have changed.

MARIA CASTANEDA: Absolutely. For example, on the I90, if you're heading out from, say downtown and you going to the airport. You-- you-- if you want to get off and get going to the airport, you definitely have to get over to that right lane about a mile sooner, because that exit has moved.

ROZ VARON: There will also be significant changes in the Jane Byrne Interchange Construction Zone this year, where the focus will be on the main line. Causing delays on the Kennedy and Dan Ryan, feeding into the JBI. This is also a big construction season on the tollways. The biggest impact will be felt on 294.

The central tri-state reconstruction and widening from Balmoral to 95th already has several work zones in place, with narrow lanes and changing configurations. That includes the Mile-Long Bridge. This year, the new southbound bridge will be built. It's really important driving through construction to pay attention.

MARIA CASTANEDA: Slow down. The speed limit is lowered for a reason. Things can happen very quickly in a work zone. And if you traveled through it yesterday, it may not be that same work zone tomorrow.

ROZ VARON: And you know one of the other things. People during the pandemic because traffic was so light, they were driving fast. Faster than they should have been. And now, they really have to abide by the rules because there's a lot more traffic and people are still being very anxious out there and it can be very, very dangerous, guys.

- It sure can, Roz, and it's going to be a real shift people getting used to taking time or at least allotting time to get where-- to where they need to go. Thank you so much.