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The dividing line between some traffic and a lot of traffic in the morning: 7 a.m.

The difference may seem a trivial few minutes saved, but time stuck in traffic adds up. Chicagoans spend about 73 hours in traffic a year, a new study says.

Traffic on the Kennedy Expressway
Chicagoans spend about 73 hours in traffic a year, a new study says.
Getty Images

If you’re looking for the sweet spot to avoid Chicago traffic in the morning and evening, a new study could help.

Motorists on the road between 6 and 7 a.m. experience about half the congestion as those on the road between 7 and 8 a.m., according to a study released Thursday by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

The difference may seem a trivial few minutes saved, but time stuck in traffic adds up.

The average Chicago commuter, considering all time spent behind the wheel, including weekends, spends about 73 hours stuck in traffic a year — third most in the nation and up from 31 hours in 1982, according to the study.

The study shows motorists trying to avoid traffic on the way home would benefit from getting their driving in before before 3 p.m., because the next three hours are the most congested of the day.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if employers let you leave that early?” joked Bill Eisele, a co-author of the study, which analyzed data from 2017.

Commuters stuck in traffic between 4 and 5 p.m. experience congestion nearly twice as intense as the peak morning rush. Eisele said this happens because drivers end up sharing the road with folks they wouldn’t have encountered in the morning, like people out running errands.

The worst, most congested hour of the entire week? Between 4 and 5 p.m. Fridays when a crush of people are trying to jump-start their weekend, Eisele said.