Thursday might be a good day for some commuters to start taking a different route to the Kennedy Expressway as crews begin a $60 million project to realign the dangerous Elston, Fullerton and Damen six-way intersection on the North Side.
The project will create three independent intersections for Fullerton, Damen and Elston. The new plan includes rerouting Elston around the existing intersection. The city had previously analyzed plans to build a tunnel or flyover, but it proved to be less effective and more expensive.
The intersection has long been clogged with traffic, with drivers sometimes confused because of the short distance between traffic signals. And for now, that traffic will get worse.
Beginning Thursday, Damen and Elston will be reduced to one lane in each direction north of Fullerton so that crews can demolish a portion of the Midtown Athletic Club building. Once that is demolished, lane closures will continue so crews can install new sewers and water lines, according to the city’s Department of Transportation.
In late June, there will also be lane closures on Elston, south of Fullerton. There will be traffic impacts until the end of the year, officials said.
There will also be lane closures in mid-June on West Fullerton just west of the river for utility connections, but one lane in each direction will open in the work zone.
“This intersection is a very bad bottleneck for traffic on the North Side and it’s been a problem for years,” CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey said. “We’ve been working on coming up with a good design that will reroute Elston and it will clear the intersection on Damen and Fullerton.”
According to CDOT, that intersection handles close to 70,000 vehicles on a busy day and has been ranked in the top 10 highest crash locations in Chicago since 1999.
For now, the department is recommending taking alternate routes if you don’t have to travel through the work zone, such as Diversey, Ashland, Clybourn, Webster and North Avenue. Recommended bike path alternates are Diversey to Clybourn to Cortland.
“We’re asking drivers to bear with us this season as we get this project underway,” Claffey said.
All work should be completed by November 2016.