top of page

Chicago #1 In Bad Traffic Thanks To Poor City Planning

Illinois may have the second highest real estate taxes in the nation, but now Chicago is ranked #1 of all United States cities for bad traffic, congestion, and road delays.

A new report by INRIX, a global traffic scorecard, found that in 2022, Chicago-area drivers logged an annual average of 155 wasted hours sitting in traffic – a whopping 50 percent gain over 2021.

The poor planning and the inane idea of simultaneously shutting down both the Kennedy Expressway and DuSable Lake Shore Drive this spring and summer probably put us over the top.

Add a dash of NASCAR madness to the mix – with a special Streets and Sanitation award for welding down the manhole covers on streets surrounding Grant Park – it is easy to see how the city won this dubious title.

The cherry and chopped nuts on top of this delectable dish is the city’s master plan to install new sewer lines everywhere on the North Side, repave miles of neighborhood streets, and erect snazzy new protected bicycle lanes complete with concrete curbs.

Driving in Chicago today is utter chaos. This writer, son of a lifetime Chicago cabdriver, offers the following auto-transportation tips for weary Windy City residents and commuters:

• Avoid the Dan Ryan Expressway, especially south of the intersection with the Stevenson Expressway. The southern end of the Dan Ryan should officially be designated as a NASCAR driver training site, a road where cars with black-tinted windows race at more than 100 mph even in the slow lane.

• If you enter the Kennedy from the Jane Byrne Interchange, or spaghetti bowl, never venture northbound into the Ohio Street Tunnel on the Kennedy unless you want to be trapped for half an hour while breathing truck exhaust fumes.

• In rush hour, always avoid the northbound Lake Shore Drive construction zones after 6:00 p.m.

A few weeks ago, this writer was trapped from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. when city crews shrank the road from four lanes to one lane at Fullerton Avenue with orange cones and flashing lights.

Traffic was at a total standstill for 15 minutes. One driver with a bursting bladder actually exited his vehicle, strolled into Lincoln Park, and relieved himself behind a tree before returning to his car.

According to cab driver lore, here are the best non-expressway alternative routes from the West Side to the North and Northwest sides of town:

• To avoid wasting 2.5 hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic inching along congested expressways from Rush University Medical Center at Harrison & Ashland to the North and Northwest sides, try this secret cab driver route called the “Northwest Passage.”

Take Ashland north to Grand Avenue. Turn west and take Grand to Kedzie Boulevard. Take Kedzie to Milwaukee Avenue, turning north at the statue in Logan Square Park (see map at right). Continue north on Milwaukee until you reach Addison Street near Schurz High School. To avoid the Metra railroad overpass construction (now in its second year) over Milwaukee, make a left turn onto Addison and go west to Central Avenue.

Continue north on Central from 3600 N to Caldwell Avenue. Make a left on Caldwell to Devon Avenue (6000 N), where the speed limit is 40 mph, and go north to Milwaukee Avenue. Turn right on Milwaukee and go northwest to the city limits and the quiet suburb of Niles.

• Try to avoid Metra train roadblocks. During the rush hour, you will encounter commuter rail delays with seven-car express trains passing every 15 minutes, rumbling across the Metra tracks at Caldwell. Never take this route at 11:30 a.m., or 5:30 p.m. on weekdays, because that is when the 100-car Metra industrial-strength freight train crosses the tracks at the intersection of Peterson-Caldwell and Devon.

• While traffic on Milwaukee can move well going north, don’t automatically assume that other diagonal streets such as Lincoln Avenue and Elston Avenue will always be smooth sailing.

Traffic experts say Chicago’s angle street stoplights can be twice as long, depending on the number of turn lanes. Time the angle-street lights, especially at those six-corner intersections such as Lincoln, Halsted, and Fullerton, or Elston, Western, and Diversey.

• If you love sitting in traffic with tranquil views of Lake Michigan, then the famed Northwest Passage is not your best shortcut to Chicago’s Northwest Side. Lake Shore Drive is your only option.

• Take LSD – not the drug, the highway – north to Hollywood Avenue. Be prepared for a long traffic light at Sheridan Road, and slow going on Hollywood up to Clark Street.

Beware of another traffic snare at Ravenswood, where Metra is building a new station. Then go north on Peterson Avenue, a two-lane street that moves along relatively quickly through the neighborhoods of North Lincoln Square, Hollywood Park, Peterson Park, and Sauganash.

• When you cross the Edens Expressway just west of Cicero Avenue, sneak a peek at the bumper-to-bumper traffic in both directions and have a good laugh. You just beat the city’s bad traffic plan. Continue west on Peterson to Central Avenue, and pray you missed that 100-car freight train.

Congratulations! You now are a member of the “Windy City Beat Bad Traffic Club.”

Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit


“The book is Escaping Condo Jail by Sara Benson and Don DeBat. I would say that anybody thinking about buying a condo, or even anybody serving on a condo board, or anybody who has any connection to a condo, this is must reading—all 600 and something pages. Thanks a lot for a great book!”


Steve Sanders, “Your Money Matters” WGN TV, December 22, 2014

By Don DeBat

  • LinkedIn - Black Circle
Don DeBat's RSS Feed
Recent Posts

Site Sponsors & Affiliates

bottom of page