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Controversial Circle Interchange project to begin in two weeks

Green Street Lofts resident Peter Steinau left building president David Lewis will have full view 24-foot high wall look when

Green Street Lofts resident Peter Steinau, left, and building president David Lewis will have the full view of a 24-foot high wall to look at when the Circle Interchange is reconstructed. | Tina Sfondeles~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 19, 2013 3:45PM

As Gov. Pat Quinn praised the massive $425 million Circle Interchange reconstruction project — which will begin in just two weeks — David Lewis stood in front of the condominium he’s lived in since 1986, imagining what a new 26-foot wall will look like next to the West Loop building.

Lewis, Green Street Loft’s condominium board president, and many residents protested loudly during public meetings when Illinois Department of Transportation engineers informed them the noise abatement wall would be just seven feet from their building.

The group huffed and puffed and IDOT listened, moving the wall 26 feet away. The now 24-foot high wall will run a bit higher than the third floor of the four-story building, blocking views for three families on the south side of the building, in particular, Lewis said Wednesday.

Still, Lewis, and Peter Steinau, a resident of the building, call their fight a win.

“They promised us a lot. We negotiated with them,” Lewis said. “We’re not necessarily happy, but we’re satisfied we got the best deal we can.”

Part of that agreement includes offering residents the land between the wall and their building as public green space. Residents will also be able to choose the design of the wall, Lewis said.

Just two blocks away, Quinn stood with IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider and dozens of construction workers, in announcing the four-year project would begin reconstructing the Morgan Street bridge in two weeks.

Quinn stressed the danger of the interchange — consistently rated one of the worst bottlenecks in the country — which records more than 900 crashes a year.

“The congestion is irritating. There are crashes. It slows down our commerce. The bottom line is our Department of Transportation has to take action, 21st century action,” Quinn said. The state’s “got to make some fundamental changes in this interchange . . .. If you take the Dan Ryan, if you take the Kennedy or the Eisenhower or on the Congress Parkway, this is going to improve things for everybody.”

The project will create 5,000 construction jobs and will reconstruct the interchange which links the Dan Ryan to the south, Eisenhower to the west, Congress Parkway to the east and the Kennedy to the north.

Schneider said the construction is planned in stages to minimize the disruption to commerce and traffic. But delays and lane closures are inevitable.

In stage one, which will begin in two weeks, crews will begin work on the Morgan Street bridge. Over the next six to eight months, crews will begin work on Halsted, Harrison, Peoria and Taylor streets, and on the contested north to west flyover ramp over Halsted, which will connect drivers to the Eisenhower.

In 2016, crews will begin work affecting the majority of expressway drivers: reconstructing the main lanes of traffic on both the Dan Ryan and Kennedy Expressways, as well as work on Van Buren, Jackson, Adams and Monroe.

Three lanes will remain open on the Dan Ryan and Kennedy, while two lanes will be open in each direction on the Congress Parkway and Eisenhower.

Much of the work will be completed at night to minimize traffic delays, officials say.

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