Demolition work on the Ontario Street bridge progressed more quickly than expected over the weekend, and a much-prophesied traffic “Carmageddon” on the inbound Kennedy Expressway was largely avoided.
But drivers are not out of the woods yet.
Traffic on the Kennedy, which carries 260,000 vehicles on any given day, will again be detoured next weekend, as crews tackle the second leg of the bridge project, highway officials said Sunday.
Over the weekend, the detour involved inbound traffic. Next weekend, outbound motorists could suffer long delays when they are rerouted around the downtown demolition site.
It could be worse. Because the work is ahead of schedule, the timetable for completion was shortened from three weekends to two weekends, Illinois Department of Transportation officials said.
Meanwhile, traffic on the expressway was not that bad. Since late Friday, when inbound traffic was forced to bypass the expressway near Ohio Street, motorists largely avoided the Kennedy. In fact, traffic volume on the inbound side of the expressway was about a third less than on a typical June weekend.
“The message definitely got out. People looked for different driving routes, but many turned to” rail, said CTA spokesman Brian Steele, who added that Blue Line park-and-ride lots along the Kennedy were jammed full of cars on Saturday.
Officials for Metra and the CTA said they both saw higher-than-usual weekend ridership. Both agencies boosted their capacity by adding train cars and increasing route frequency.
Officials for the rail agencies said they plan to offer increased service when outbound lanes of the Kennedy are closed next weekend.