Loop Link work triggers traffic lament; some cabbies vow to avoid rush hour

SHARE Loop Link work triggers traffic lament; some cabbies vow to avoid rush hour
SHARE Loop Link work triggers traffic lament; some cabbies vow to avoid rush hour

“Loop Link” construction joined a bevy of other downtown street work Monday to trigger the Loop lament — as cabbies and other drivers navigated an onslaught of orange construction barriers.

Several cabdrivers said they had never seen so much construction in the Loop at one time, and they vowed to avoid the area at rush hour in favor of finding fares at O’Hare International or Midway Airports.

“It’s terrible,” said Bernard Forson, a Checker cabdriver for 20 years. “I’ve never seen this much construction in the Loop. . . . Washington, Monroe, Madison, Wabash — it’s everywhere.”

Forson said he left the Loop for Midway Airport as soon as he could Monday morning. “I can’t make money in the Loop” with all the street work. He predicted more of the same from other cabbies at rush hour in the months to come.

City officials pleaded for patience Monday and asked commuters to keep their eye on the end goal.

“We’re asking commuters to bear with us while we carry out this badly needed work to modernize our transportation system and help people from Chicago’s neighborhoods get to their destinations more quickly and reliably,” said Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Michael Claffey.

CDOT will be working closely with the CTA, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications and other agencies to monitor project impacts, Claffey said.

By year’s end, officials say, most of the construction should be completed on the $31.8 million Loop Link. The bus rapid transit project will bring dedicated bus lanes, with signal priority for buses, to two major east-west connectors between Union Station and Millennium Park — Washington Street and Madison Street.

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But first, as of Monday, that meant westbound Madison was reduced from three lanes to two between State and Clark, and southbound Clinton was narrowed to two lanes between Randolph and Jackson.

More Madison lane reductions are ahead this spring, along with additional work on Washington at Canal and on Canal at Van Buren, Claffey said.

Plus, that work comes amid the complete closure ofWabash Street between Washington and Madison, for 18 months while a new Washington-Wabash CTA station is being built. More lane closures are due on Wabash, from Randolph to Washington, and on Wabash from Madison to Monroe.

And those two projects will be joined in April by work on a new CTA Union Station Transit Center, which will be constructed on the south side of Jackson between Clinton and Canal.

Meanwhile, work on the Jane Byrne Interchange has created a headache for drivers heading into the Loop from the Dan Ryan. Ryan exit ramps at Roosevelt, Taylor and Congress have been closed during construction of the Interchange flyover.

One cabbie speculated that was why Canal was jammed during Monday’s rush. Drivers were using it as an alternate northbound route into the city from the Ryan.

Several cabdrivers questioned why transportation officials didn’t spread out the construction work more, or only at night — or at least not during the rush hour.

“It should have been done incrementally,” saidMuhammad Chaudri, a Royal Three CCC Cab Company driver. “It’s really messy.”

Claffey said CDOT managed to tackle a Wacker Drive reconstruction simultaneous with Congress Parkway work in 2010.

“Commuters know how to adapt and adjust their travel patterns to account for construction projects,’’ Claffey said.

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