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Finally! Wacker Drive work to wrap up Friday

Work Wacker Drive reconstructiproject continues June 2012.  |   TinSfondeles~Sun-Times

Work on the Wacker Drive reconstruction project continues in June 2012. | Tina Sfondeles~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 30, 2012 3:50PM

A lot happened in Chicago while thousands of workers constructed a new Wacker Drive.

A blizzard hit the city with a vengeance — and 19 inches of snow — in February 2011. And in July 2010 and July 2011, rain flooded Lower Wacker, inching over the curb and filling the road with 9 inches of rain.

But the massive $303 million project, the one Gov. Pat Quinn called “Herculean” will finally be finished come Friday.

The pedestrians at 57 high-rise buildings who depend on Wacker Drive for access won’t have to use temporary sidewalks. And the 65,000 vehicles that travel daily on upper and lower Wacker Drive will be free to roam once again — even those 11 CTA bus routes that were rerouted during construction.

On Friday, the Wacker-Van Buren intersection, the Congress Parkway interchange and the entire length of Upper and Lower Wacker Drive will open, as the $303 million project takes its bow.

The newly reconstructed intersection of Jackson at Wacker reopened Nov. 15.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday said a revamped Wacker Drive is “essential for the city’s economic growth.”

“Just take a look, there are about 60,000 vehicles that use Upper Wacker on a daily basis, about 75,000 on Congress, and about 150,000 pedestrians who walk across Wacker Drive every day, so modernizing it to move goods and services efficiently and effectively thus far is essential,” Emanuel said.

The new Lower Wacker Drive features a separate service drive area from the main road so local traffic can move freely without delivery trucks getting in the way.

Emanuel compared it to streets in New York: “If a bus or truck stops to deliver a product, that street is down to a one lane. That’s not true in Chicago.”

The project began in April 2010. It included reconstructing Upper and Lower Wacker Drive from Randolph to Congress, and reconfiguring the Congress Parkway interchange. The east-west section of Wacker Drive from Michigan to Randolph was renovated in a $223 million project in 2001-2002.

Other key additions include extra lighting and the elimination of some unsafe turns. The ceiling on the widened Lower Wacker was raised and sidewalks were widened on Upper Wacker. Also, ramps along the Congress Interchange are now partially underground with a three-acre park above.

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