Drivers cope with Kennedy Expressway construction

There are probably a million better ways to pass time than to be driving on the Kennedy Expressway anywhere near downtown Chicago from 10 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Monday, when the inbound Kennedy (I-90/94) will be constricted to make room for the demolition of the Ontario Street bridge.

Options abound for getting from here to there without the JFK. Here are five tips to consider for surviving the first of three bridge de-construction weekends this month:

1. The CTA and Metra are running longer trains this weekend to accommodate an expected ridership spike, and more CTA buses will be serving Metra stations downtown. Parking is free at many public lots near Metra stations in the suburbs, and the $7 Metra weekend pass includes free rides for up to three children 11 or under. Infrequent CTA riders can avoid long lines at fare card vending machines by purchasing a Ventra card ahead of time, or use a contactless personal credit or debit card. A single Ventra card can be used to pay up to seven fares.

2. Before heading out, check http://www.chicagotribune.com for news updates, http://www.travelmidwest.com for Chicago-area expressway and Illinois Tollway travel times, and various radio stations for traffic reports. Sign up for free emergency traffic alerts via text at http://www.notifychicago.org.

3. Some drivers insist there are no really good alternate routes to the Kennedy. In the city, officials recommend taking Western Avenue from the Chicago-Evanston border to about I-290. For trips going around Chicago to or from Indiana or Wisconsin, try I-294, or I-80 to I-39. From the north and west, suggested routes include Lake Shore Drive and I-290. From the south, I-55 and Lake Shore Drive. Ogden Avenue is a posted detour for temporarily closed ramps from the Eisenhower to the Kennedy.

4. Ride a bike, either your own or a Divvy. If you own a car-mounted bicycle rack, this might be the weekend to drive and bike. Don’t forget the sunscreen.

5. Stay home and enjoy over-the-fence chitchat and cocktails with your neighbors. The conversation will invariably meander to the topic of the knuckleheads on the Kennedy.

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