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Some of nation's worst commutes are on the Stevenson, study finds

Southbound Stevenson Expressway from the County Line rd. overpass Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011. This is a section of Chicago’s most-congested stretches of expressway on the Stevenson Expressway, according to a study by the Texas Transportation Institute . | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

When Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson urged Americans to show “Sacrifice, patience, understanding, and implacable purpose,” in a famous speech at the 1952 Democratic National Convention, he probably wasn’t talking about rush-hour traffic.

But those steadfast qualities are exactly what you’ll need to navigate a southwest suburban stretch of the expressway named in his honor.

The northbound lanes of I-55 between IL-53 and IL-83 provide one of the most maddening commutes in the nation, according to a major study released Tuesday.

Motorists who don’t want to be late need to allow themselves more than two-and-a-half times as much time as normally would be expected to get where they’re going along this road, according to the Texas Transportation Institute. It also named the northbound section of I-55 between Harlem and County Line Road, and the eastbound section of the Eisenhower between Higgins and Austin as among the U.S.’s most “reliably unreliable” roads.

Though sections of expressway near downtown Chicago are more often congested, report author Bill Eisele said, it’s the unpredictable nature of the traffic on the suburban sections of the Stevenson that can drive drivers nuts.

A trip along the worst 9-mile section can easily take as few as 9 minutes or as many as 26. But like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you don’t know what you’re going to get.

Some motorists take extreme steps to avoid the uncertainty.

“I try to leave before 3 p.m. if I need to be back in the city by a reasonable time,” said Ronda Klocko, whose journey along the Stevenson from her marketing job at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital to her Gold Coast home can take as little as 25 minutes or as much as an hour and a half. “Otherwise I’ll work late – if I can’t avoid it, XM radio helps.”

As bad as the Stevenson can be, 19 expressways in other parts of the U.S. are worse, the report says.

On the nation’s worst, in Atlanta, motorists have to budget three-and-a-half times as much time as their trip may take if they don’t want to be late.

Drivers in parts of New York, Norfolk, New Haven, Houston, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Baltimore, Louisville, New Orleans and Baton Rouge also endure worse commutes than anything the Chicago-area has to offer, the report says.