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To avoid Chicago or Not to Avoid, that etc.

Wisconsin
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To avoid Chicago or Not to Avoid, that etc.

In a different forum, someone asked, "Why avoid Chicago traffic?"

Good question. I think poor Chicago has a perception problem rather than just a traffic problem. In truth, all the times we've driven from Wisconsin south, we've only one time (out of about 60 trips) had a huge problem and that was due to a serious accident. But it's an ongoing topic because it's so hard TO avoid. Recently, we've taken to going out of our way from North Central Illinois and driving through Rockford to catch I43 north, just to avoid Chicago. We figure it only adds about 15 minutes onto a 2000+ mile trip but we avoid Chicago. Believe me, it feels very strange to take a 90 degree turn rather than heading North.

Why avoid Chicago? Tolls, constant construction and it seems to take forever to get through. Other metro areas like Atlanta, Phoenix, Nashville don't seem to have that endless feel that Chicago does, don't ask me why.

Then there's the bigger question of which route through Chicago. But that's a different topic.

Milwaukee
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1. Re: To avoid Chicago or Not to Avoid, that etc.

I am going to guess that you have either been incredibly lucky or had impeccable timing if you have not experienced delays driving thru the Chicago area.

The last few years construction on the tollway between Wisconsin and Illinois caused many headaches. I think it's pretty much finished now.

I haven't had the need to drive thru the Chicago area as part of a longer trip for some time, but in the past I always tried to time my drive for very early in the morning or late at night to avoid congestion.

Wisconsin
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2. Re: To avoid Chicago or Not to Avoid, that etc.

We usually hit it around 11:00 am and quite often take the Skyway. But boy, that's one creepy road, I keep thinking it will collapse any minute. I checked with DH, we take I94 to to 294 to I 94 and I 90 and the Skyway...or lots of other ways too! I remember as a kid thinking, that once you hit "Chicago" you were on your way. Now you drive for 45 minutes and are still in "Chicago". We're usually undecided until the day we leave. This year, I'm thinking we may drive to Rockford just to avoid the WI I94 construction. Seriously, I wish there was one more big bypass around it, about 40 miles from the heart of the city.

Milwaukee
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3. Re: To avoid Chicago or Not to Avoid, that etc.

I have taken the skyway when I am passing thru at a slow time.

Depending on the destination (or beginning point) in Wisconsin, I-43 just seems too far out of the way to me, especially if you are going to (or coming from) downtown Milwaukee or anywhere close to lake Michigan. I guess if you are further west it would be the way to go.

Traveling toward Atlanta I have taken I-57 from the southwest Chicago area south and connect with I-24 in the far south of Illinois. I-24 takes you to Nashville. I don't like I-65 thru Indiana, but I must say it has been years since I have even tried that route, so maybe they have improved it.

If you are going straight east from Chicago or into Michigan you would really have to detour or take the ferry to avoid Chicago.

New York City, New...
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4. Re: To avoid Chicago or Not to Avoid, that etc.

I lived in Chicago for about 7 years and for two of those years I commuted from the North side, first out to O'Hare and then later out to Hinsdale. My experience was that ideally it would take 25 minutes to get from the lake front to Touhy and River Road, about 12 miles. Going home in the evening the trip was always 45 minutes, but could be worse. The trip to Hinsdale - about 25 miles would average 45 minutes each way when all was good. But I could run into massive problems in the summer driving past McCormick place. I think part of this has been improved since I was driving that route, but there are also more cars taking the route. On both of these commutes you could find your self in the car for one to two hours in the worst case scenarios. Actually, I had one really, really worst case scenario when it took me 4 hours to get home from Hinsdale in a snow storm.

The other thing I used to do a lot of then, was drive out to family in Rockford. On Fridays it would often take 3 hours to get to Rockford unless you leave at 10 AM.

My experience since moving to Wisconsin is that I and my visitors often run into Chicago problems. My sister and her family who drive from upstate NY to Wisconsin feel like they really know every mile, if not half mile post, intimately on Chicago's expressways and tollways. ; ) It's been a combination of construction, events, rush hour, accidents, and holidays that seems to contribute to grid lock. If there is a White Sox game and you're driving on the Dan Ryan north or the Kennedy in bound before game time, you'd better factor in some extra time. Another area is near Rosemont. I forget what the Arena is called these days, but if there is an event there it can slow down the Kennedy and the Tri-State.

I love Chicago and enjoy spending time there - just not on the "express ways." But whenever I get a bit homesick for my old condo and the big city, I tune the radio to WGN or WBBM and catch a traffic report. Then I smile and laugh at Madison area traffic reports that complain about 15 minutes back ups.

Pam

Wisconsin
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5. Re: To avoid Chicago or Not to Avoid, that etc.

I guess we really have been extraordinarily lucky, but we try to time our trips to be going thru mid-to late morning or returning on the weekend. We head south, usually through Atlanta and have the discussion every year--do we go thru Illinois or through Indiana? It's easier to plan now with Google maps and other devices. I used to rely on notes and maps to gauge the best or fastest routes.

Actually, Przyk, we go through Milwaukee but still have used the Rockford/Beloit route a couple of times. It's been more recently when they had the really serious construction in Chicago. We finally decided we have to make a snap decision as to which will be harder on the nerves at that point. Extra time on the road, but relatively clear sailing (it will be even better they finally finish the construction near Rockford) or gambling as to what we'll hit in Chicago.

Pam, you left out the best part. What is the BEST route to get past Chicago?

Madison
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6. Re: To avoid Chicago or Not to Avoid, that etc.

I used to do it several times a year every year, traveling from Madison to see my family in upstate New York.

I finally had enough after black ice from Schaumburg to Madison, with a truck jackknife stopping us cold on the highway 10 miles from home.

Now, I take the train to Chicago from Harvard, IL if I am going to the city, and I fly out east, and avoid O'Hare by bussing to Milwaukee's airport. I decided last spring to drive to Cleveland with a friend in HER car, since I hadn't done it in so long. She had family in South Bend, and so knew the best times to leave and return. We sailed right through downtown both ways!

On the way east, it was 7 AM on a weekday morning when we drove through. No delays anywhere. On the way back, it was 7 AM on Sunday. Ditto. I was truly amazed at the improvements to some stretches of the highway, and extra lanes on 90 north of downtown really helped, too!

Pam, I too listen to WGN in the evening on the way home, and laugh about how good we have it here. Another reason I don't need to live in the big city - I just want 1 or 2 nearby to visit.

Milwaukee
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7. Re: To avoid Chicago or Not to Avoid, that etc.

I've gotten stuck in Chicago for HOURS on various trips mostly from Milwaukee to Indy. One time, it was stuck for hours on the 294 on a Friday afternoon. The next it was stuck for hours on I-94 connector...we sat for 3 hours and went 7 miles. Then I've gotten stuck going the opposite way on a Friday and it took me 3 hours to get from Gary to Gurnee. Other times, we've blown through as if nobody was there....it's a crapshoot....but I normally always take the Skyway because I think 94 is STILL under construction by the Indiana border.

Wisconsin
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8. Re: To avoid Chicago or Not to Avoid, that etc.

Oh Football guy (don't want to say that name, we're a F-free zone in our house) you must have gotten all of my delays, sorry about that! I guess that's how it all averages out

Milwaukee
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9. Re: To avoid Chicago or Not to Avoid, that etc.

I live in a player #4 free house as well...but I can't change my name without losing my history....so I'm stuck with it.

Uden, The...
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10. Re: To avoid Chicago or Not to Avoid, that etc.

Must be different to a visitor who wants to make Chicago a destination like us. We don't mind heavy traffic and have been to places as Los Angeles and Phoenix many times (Phoenix area east to west is 60 miles...) and being from Europe I can assure you that traffic jams in my country (The Netherlands) are common, even on 2x5 lanes motorways. And after many city visits to famous European cities like Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Athens we often find travelling in the USA very easy. Last year we were in St. Louis and that can be busy as well but with the excellent signposting it was easy to commute even without gps.

Thanks for posting this Frozen. I'll follow the Wisconsin forum from now on ;)

Tet