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Chicago has a somewhat unique layout of highways, dictated by its position along the southwestern edge of Lake Michigan. Because of this, several highways traveling east to west through the country end up heading north-south through Chicago. In addition, various Interstates merge and split off at various points. Trying to describe these highways purely by route and Interstate numbers can get confusing. In Chicago, they don't. Almost every highway and tollway has a name, and they are usually refered to by name, rather than number. So, this page will try to give you the full name of all the highways, so that if you hear a traffic report, you'll know what's where. Simply grab a map, get to one of the Interstates listed below, and follow the directions.
August Update:The Stevenson is under major construction, with virutally the entire highway between the Tri-State Tollway and Lake Shore Drive torn up. Expect delays, doubly so during rush hours. Because of the construction, travel times and congestion info aren't available for the Stevenson.
Also, I-55 at the Des Plains River is under construction, with one bridge closed, leaving one lane in both directions. Expect additional delays here, travelers from Downstate Illinois can expect to add an hour or more to the total travel time through the two major construction zones.
From the Eastern US, take I-90 inbound, through the Chicago Skyway to the merge with the Dan Ryan. In downtown, you will meet I-290, which is known as the Eisenhower Expressway. Take I-290 east into downtown, and follow the I-290 directions below.
From the Western US, take I-90 inbound, the Northwest Tollway, which is a toll road from near Rockford, IL to O'Hare Airport. Here, it changes to the Kennedy Expressway. Follow the Kennedy to the I-290 interchange, and take I-290 into downtown, following the directions below.
August Update: Construction is found on the Skyway and the Northwest Tollway. Expect delays, doubly so during rush hour. The worst congestion is typically found *after* tollbooths, were the traffic is attempting to remerge into the highway lanes. Also, note that the far left lanes are for the electronic I-PASS toll system, traffic tends to zip through these lanes at quite a clip, so stay to the right.
August Update There is some construction at the I-80/I-290 interchange, a lovely piece of Highway known as "The Hillside Strangler." Traffic is bad, but no worse that it always is, the real problems don't start until next year.
Lots of cars come to downtown Chicago every day, so there are lots of parking garages. Unfortunately, it takes longer to build a garage than a car, so the market clearing price for parking is rather high by the standards of everywhere except New York. With the Chicon discount, hotel parking rates for members staying at the Hyatt Regency Chicago and the Swissotel are pretty cheap for the Loop. The rest of you may wish to take the following tour.
Start at the corner of Michigan and Wacker, and drive east. First up to your right is the One Illinois Center garage (111 E. Wacker) ($20 for 12-24 hours). you want to look for something better, turn right on North Columbus Drive and take the downward ramp (a right turn just in front of the Fairmont). Wind your way down to Middle Columbus Drive, going south. The 303 East Wacker Garage, on your left, charges $17 for 12 to 24 hours. If you go down another level to Lower Columbus and go south you will see a large, narrow "Parking" sign to your right, which points toward the Aon Center and Prudential Plaza garages. Their 12 to 24 hour rates are no better than what you've already seen ($20.50 at Aon Center, $17.50 at Prudential Plaza), but each has a weekend/holiday rate that applies from 4:00 p.m. on Friday to 8:30 a.m. on the next business day. During those periods, Aon Center charges $9.75 per 24 hours (or fraction thereof), while Prudential Plaza's rate is $9.00 per 24 hours.
Instead of going straight after passing the 303 East Wacker Garage, you can twist your way down to the lowest level, where you will come to the Family Golf Centers lot (entrance on Lower Columbus). This is an outdoor lot and is closed from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m., but it charges only $8.75 per day and, being outside, can accommodate trucks and full-sized vans. the FGC lot is full or inexplicably closed (as happens once in a while), turn west onto the lowest level of South Water Street, which will take you past the Michigan Plaza (202-205 South Michigan) Garage. (You will need to pass it and make a u-turn in order to enter.) The 12 to 24 hour rate here is $17.00, and the weekend/holiday 24-hour rate is $10.00. There is an outside lot for trucks, and the garage entrance clearance is 9' 6". This lot and that are Family Golf Centers are the only ones described here that can handle anything taller than a minivan.
They say that you can experience all four seasons in one day here in the Windy City, but we know that there is only one season -- construction season! As you drive around keep this in mind and do not be dismayed ... you will get there! eventually...
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