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Upper, Lower Wacker Drive reopen after 2 years of work

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Updated: December 1, 2012 5:24PM

Chicago cabdriver James Adegbite couldn’t wait for Friday’s evening rush.

That’s not something you hear every day from someone often caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

But Adegbite’s wish to cruise down a reconstructed Lower Wacker Drive for the first time in 2-1/2 years came a bit sooner than that, as the city opened it to traffic about 2 p.m.

“Everybody should be excited because it’s been closed for such a long time,” Adegbite said. “It’s a shortcut not necessarily just for cab drivers. It’s just a very good one.”

Lower Wacker Drive had been closed since April 2010, when crews began the biggest upgrade to the lower viaduct since it was built in the 1950s.

More than 60,000 vehicles use both Wacker Drive and Lower Wacker Drive every day.

Drivers on Lower Wacker will notice better lighting, a higher ceiling, giant exhaust fans that will provide better ventilation and separate lanes for service vehicles that use the road, along with signalized intersections. And Lower Wacker now features an underground ramp that offers more space for drivers merging onto Congress Parkway.

Earlier Friday, the intersection at Wacker and Van Buren was reopened for the first time since it closed for demolition and reconstruction in July, allowing drivers and pedestrians the freedom to move along all of Upper Wacker.

For mass transit riders, the two years of CTA bus re-routes are almost over, except for four buses which will resume normal routing on Monday. Those include the No. 11 Lincoln/Sedgwick, No. 120 Ogilvie/Wacker Express, No. 121 Union/Wacker Express and No. 32 Goose Island Express.

Web developer Maria Delgado’s bus route was in constant flux during construction.

“My bus [No.11] was affected for the whole time construction was going on,” Delgado, 27, said. “It kept on making different turns.”

Her co-worker Shane Stiles joked he’ll no longer have an excuse of being late for a meeting.

“I take the train to work, but I walk back-and-forth between the buildings on Wacker, and even walking or trying to get to a cab to a meeting, It was just a pain to find the moving targets and trying to make sure you could get around to be on time,” Stiles said.

“Oh, we’re definitely happy it’s over,” he said.

The massive $303 million project began in April 2010 and came in $47 million under budget, officials said in November. 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.

The project supported and created 3,100 jobs, Gov. Pat Quinn’s office said. Eighty percent of the project, $240 million, was reimbursed by the federal government, while $60 million came from the State of Illinois Jump Start program and $3 million came from the City of Chicago.

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