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Study says Chicago traffic congestion actually got better

Late afternotraffic Dan Ryan expressway heading inbound May 22 2012. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Late afternoon traffic on the Dan Ryan expressway heading inbound on May 22, 2012. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 2, 2012 9:28AM

So the economy’s lousy and gas costs a fortune.

At least Chicagocommuters sit in less traffic, according to a new report on America’s worst roadway congestion.

Drivers in the Chicago area were stuck in traffic an average of 36 hours in 2011, 12 fewer than the 48 wasted in traffic in 2010, according to INRIX, a company that studies traffic patterns.

“If you work a 40-hour work week, that’s a full week’s vacation you waste in traffic,” said Jim Bak, an INRIX spokesman and Tinley Park native. “The number has gone down, but I’m not going to tell Chicago drivers they’re feeling less pain.”

Chicago fell from being the seventh worst congested city in America in 2010 to the 10th ­­— after sitting for three years at third, according to the INRIX National Traffic Scorecard.

Infamously jammed stretches of expressway finally dropped off the Top 10 list altogether after years of sitting at the top of it, Like the inbound Kennedy from the Sayre Ave. exit, down through the Loop out to Pershing Road on the Dan Ryan, a 16-mile stretch that was ranked the 14th-worst nationwide in 2011, down from No. 4 in 2010.

“What we’ve found this year is, of the 100 most populated cities, 70 of them had decreases in traffic congestion,” Bak said.

The cities that experienced the biggest drops in traffic jams were also places where gas prices exceeded the national average at its April 2011 peak of $3.96 a gallon, Bak said. In Chicago, gas cost an average $4.

Honolulu and Los Angeles still topped the list, followed by San Francisco, New York and Bridgeport, Conn.

“It’s fortunate in Chicago, unlike places like Phoenix or Los Angeles, Chicago’s got a really good public transit system,” he said.

Traffic congestion only dropped one other time since it’s been measured, Bak said. That was in 2008 when 99 of the top 100 most populated cities reported less traffic, the recession was in full swing and gas topped $4.

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