The bridge demolition work that forced closures on the Kennedy Expressway the last two weekends has come to an end early, officials said Sunday morning, and the roadway is reopening.
Outbound lanes on the Kennedy Expressway were opened to traffic as of about 7:30 a.m. Sunday, according to an e-mail release from Illinois Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jae Miller, and the agency is in the process of opening the full roadway.
Miller said that removal of the last portion of the Ontario Street Bridge was finished overnight, which let crews reopen the expressway sooner than expected for the second straight weekend. All lanes and ramps will be open later in the day Sunday, with cleanup continuing throughout the day.
The agency also warned motorists that they should still expect some delays traveling through the area and that motorists should be aware of flaggers and other construction workers and equipment still in the area.
Warnings of traffic nightmares caused by the construction proved overstated both this weekend and last weekend. On Saturday, there was inconvenience and driver frustration, with many city streets approaching downtown on Saturday, including Grand Avenue, Ontario Street and Halsted Street, fouled up due to expressway closures. But for a large part of the day, westbound traffic that was diverted to two lanes on the Ohio Street feeder ramp for the detour moved as quickly as could be expected.
Some drivers who braced themselves for Kennedy gridlock Saturday found that city traffic was less tolerable than the expressway.
Nicole Calcagno said she got on the Kennedy at Rosemont to go to Pridefest in Lakeview around 1:30 p.m. and it "wasn’t bad at all."
"I think everyone else avoided it," Calcagno said in an email.
Traffic control aides helped guide traffic through especially congested intersections downtown on Saturday, like the six-corner junction at Milwaukee Avenue, Halsted Street and Grand Avenue.
Megan Parker, who worked that junction Saturday, said back-ups had been going on for hours, with some drivers sitting through three or four light cycles. Many drivers were obviously frustrated, honking their horns, and some were confused about how they could access the expressway.
"They keep asking 'Where do I get on?' " Parker said.
Major problems Saturday may have been avoided because commuters used public transportation rather than driving. Metra reported higher than normal traffic for a Saturday on some lines. But it's still less than the crowds they saw last Saturday, when the Kennedy construction began and warm sunny weather helped encourage people to come downtown for the Blues Festival in Grant Park and concerts at Soldier Field.
Train cars were added to some Metra lines Saturday, including the Milwaukee North and West lines which did see higher than normal ridership for Saturday, but it was a "normal weekend" so far for the rest of the system, said Metra spokeswoman Meg Reile.
"Either people are staying away or finding other routes," Reile said.
Michelle Manchir contributed.Copyright © 2015, RedEye