Will I get stuck in Chicago traffic if I drive from the Milwaukee airport to South Bend, Indiana, starting at 4 pm Friday?
July 15, 2009 10:28 PM   Subscribe

Chicago-driving-filter. If I leave Milwaukee (airport) at about 4 pm on Friday, and drive to South Bend, Indiana, will I spend hours in Chicago rush hour traffic? Can I avoid that somehow? What if I could move my departure time a bit earlier? Is this the route to take?

Random bonus question: anyone know a convenient Apple store along this route? Thanks!

P.S. I saw this semi-related question, but it's kind of a different route.
posted by ruff to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total)
That is the route to take if you cannot fly to South Bend. YOu could consider Lake Shore Drive for part of it, but while it will be a little prettier it will be slower. You WILL hit traffic. It will cost you an extra 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. Leaving a bit earlier will not likely help.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:32 PM on July 15, 2009

Isn't the answer always yes for chicago traffick? ;)

Just did this drive off peak hours. It took ages-I don't remember exactly how long though.
posted by semacd at 10:51 PM on July 15, 2009

I have been in Chicago traffic for 4 hours + just to get from the north side to the south side on 94. Friday is a bummerfest. It is a longer distance but well worth it to take 294. Usually it is smooth sailing until you get to the 80/94 and 65 junction. There is also a White Sox game Friday night so you will want to stay away from the Skyway(94). Another option is to take a train. I know Amtrak has a station at the airport...looks like South Bend has a station...you will need to transfer at Union Station in Chi-town though.
posted by fixedthefernback at 11:07 PM on July 15, 2009

fixedthefernback is advocating this route, which is probably what I'd do if I were in your situation. 94/Dan Ryan is such a mess sometimes, but I've always had good luck with the 294/Tri State.

But I'm a downstate person, not a Chicago native... for what it's worth.
posted by sbutler at 11:26 PM on July 15, 2009

Ohh... and the Tri State is a toll road. I've driven the whole length a couple times, but I can't remember how much it cost. Maybe somewhere between $10 and $20. If you want to get off at any of the exits make sure to bring plenty of change. They only have the baskets; no attendants.
posted by sbutler at 11:33 PM on July 15, 2009

Do not by any means take 90/94 through downtown. You'll hit traffic at 5:30 or so, and you'll be in the thick of it. You'll have to slog your way through, and then sit in Skyway traffic.

If (rather, when) you take 294, there's an Apple store in the Oakbrook Mall.
posted by hwyengr at 12:03 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, do NOT take the Kennedy and Dan Ryan (90/94). It would be bad enough, but they're doing construction downtown right now (and for the next bunch of months...sigh...) so it's even more unbelievably awful. Your route should maybe look something like this.
posted by likedoomsday at 12:17 AM on July 16, 2009

I live near O'Hare and often drive up around the lakeshore to West Michigan, and I totally agree with likedoomsday's route. I avoid I-90 through the city like the plague (even when going into the city, I'll take surface streets or the train - I-90 is a ridiculously clogged route).
posted by GamblingBlues at 4:15 AM on July 16, 2009

Stay on the tollway (294) by all means.

Friday night traffic through downtown is miserable, you would basically be in stop and go traffic from Lake/Cook road all the way to and past downtown. Because the Dan Ryan leg of your journey won't be any better.
posted by Max Power at 4:44 AM on July 16, 2009

There is also currently construction on the Tri-State Tollway (I-294).


I can't say from personal experience how effective the "Minimizing Impact to Reduce Delays" strategy is. Also, the above link indicates that there is construction in Wisconsin, too.

Still, +1 to all of the comments about avoiding 90/94. Departing earlier would likely help, but I advise lots of good music and patience.
posted by timing at 5:00 AM on July 16, 2009

You can also get through the city itself via surface streets pretty easily if you're vigilant (it will help if you have someone in the car with you). So, if you decide you DO want to take the drive, you will have to take the Kennedy all the way downtown (sorry), and get onto the drive at Congress, eastbound (westbound will be the Ike, eastbound takes you to the drive). Cutting across Chicago farther north will be a mess, and confusing if you're not familiar with the northside, although if you want, try getting off the Kennedy at North and get onto the drive at LaSalle (turn left at LaSalle, this takes you onto the Drive).

Get on the drive at Congress (turn right) and keep going to 57th street (NOT I57). You'll go through the park most of the way; when you get past the Museum of Science and Industry (57th street), you'll want to bear LEFT past La Rabida hospital. I believe there's a sign that says "Skyway"-- go the OTHER way. Then just keep watching for the 41 signs all the way down to the Skyway underpass (don't get onto the Skyway). You'll have to pay close attention. You'll go UNDER the Skyway and turn left toward I90 in Indiana, this is actually the Indiana border. I'm not sure it's faster, but you will have the illusion of forward movement. We've taken this route through Chicago during rush hour and have never found traffic to be snarled. Slower yes, but not that infuriating stop and start of the highway.

Avoid I80 at all costs.

I'm sure you have your reasons, but can't you make a flight connection closer to South Bend?
posted by nax at 5:18 AM on July 16, 2009

Thanks for all the answers. The reason I can't fly is that my actual destination is further east, in a small town that isn't even served by Greyhound. I'm in Milwaukee for another event, and my cousin is flying into South Bend, and then we're driving east from there.

So, I'll be taking the 294 route that two people independently suggested above, and maybe stopping off at Oakbrook Mall. (Or should I try to catch the Apple store in Deer Park?) I did find out I might be able to leave as early as 2 pm.

nax, if the other route doesn't work out for some reason, I may revert to your approach -- I agree with you about the benefit of "the illusion of forward movement."

Thanks again, everyone.
posted by ruff at 6:05 AM on July 16, 2009

Just to echo what's been said above: the Tri-State Tollway is your best bet for this route. Do not go through downtown Chicago on I-90/94 during rush hour while a major reconstruction project is going on. There's construction on the Tri-State as well, as timing indicates, but they're doing it so that three lanes remain open in both directions (at least during peak hours.) Just keep your wits about you, watch for the sign for shifting lanes, and try not to get stuck in an iPass lane if you don't own one. Speed limits are 45 MPH in the construction zones; most people drive around 55 MPH, but there are speed-enforcement vans about, so caveat veho, I guess.

You'll probably still run into traffic, though. If you leave MKE at 4 PM on the dot and have good luck with the traffic, you might get to South Bend by 8 PM. If you have to claim luggage, pick up a rental car, and have bad luck with traffic, then 9 PM is more likely.

Finally, I too have to ask: why do you need to do drive this route? If you're just trying to save money by flying into an alternate airport rather flying directly into South Bend, there are at least a half-dozen other airports that are as close or closer to South Bend than Milwaukee: off the top of my head, I can think of O'Hare, Midway, Grand Rapids, Fort Wayne, Detroit, Toledo, and Indianapolis.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:21 AM on July 16, 2009

I've done this drive many times over the years. My preference is to go through the city (i.e. 94 to 90/94 to 90) and shave off those extra miles from the 294 route, but I've tended to avoid the busiest days and times. Choosing between these routes at rush hour on a summer Friday is a true pick-your-poison scenario.

294 is absolutely fraught with construction right now, and you'll have long backups at every toll booth (though they do have full-speed toll lanes for I-Pass/EZ-Pass people now). Plus the part of I-80 you'd be taking on that route is simply awful in all ways. On the other hand, the reversible express lanes on the Kennedy are not in your favor for this trip, and you have downtown/Sox traffic.

Monitor AM 780 for traffic updates ("on the 8s"). It's loud and clear in Milwaukee, so tune in right away in case there are any catastrophes that would require a change of plans on the fly. They refer to the roads by name instead of number. Your mapped route consists of the northern portion of the "Tri-State", the "Edens Spur", the "Inbound Edens", the "Inbound Kennedy", a short part of the "Outbound Dan Ryan", and then the "Skyway". The 294 route is basically the "Tri-State" all the way, to the "Borman" and then the Indiana Toll Road. 780 is very good about providing travel times on the expressways within the city.

Two Apple Stores in north suburbia are very close to your mapped route. The Northbrook location is just off the Edens Spur, and the Skokie location in Old Orchard Mall is just a little bit further on, off the Edens. As mentioned earlier, the Oak Brook store is fairly close to I-294 in the west suburbs.

One thought: if you have a laptop with you, you could stop at the Lake Forest Oasis (about 15-20 minutes south of the WI/IL state line, a few miles before the 94-294 split) and check traffic.com and/or Google Maps for current travel times on the two routes. That might be a good way to make a fairly well informed snap decision.

Good luck.
posted by gazole at 6:39 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Pitchfork Music Festival starts Friday, which may make traffic even worse than usual. Friday afternoons are generally bad to begin with. The Cubs are out of town but the White Sox are playing a night game.
posted by misskaz at 7:21 AM on July 16, 2009

maps.google.com allows you the option to look at average traffic conditions for any period of time in Chicago - 90/94 is a mess from around noon onwards for southbound lanes and LSD (Lake Shore Drive) will only be slightly better - as others have suggested 294 is the plan, which is only 10 mi longer & moves much quicker. The option is the "change" link next to the live traffic in the legend box.

You can use the Toll Calc to figure out how much it will cost - I guess around 5 bucks if you go 94-294 route.

Expect delays- the most accurate map I have found is the GCM travel one - you are interested in the numbers in the black circles on the left side of each highway. The icons on the top right turn off the various layers to simplify the map.
posted by zenon at 10:34 AM on July 16, 2009

294 is a better alternative, unless you are looking for the more scenic Lake Shore Drive route. Sadly, your worst traffic will be on the TriState coming out of Wisconsin. Mostly unavoidable. If you took 41 the whole way, it wouldn't be any faster, but it might be more interesting.

But yeah, 294 was built specifically for the route you are taking- it's a bypass around the city.

Don't worry too much about the construction, as far as I can tell, they haven't reduced any lanes. And it moves pretty well anyway. The tolls should be $2.35 with an ipass, $4.70 without. Quite a deal, really, considering the prices of some other states.
posted by gjc at 6:49 PM on July 16, 2009

Yeah, don't fuck with going to Deer Park. The road it's on -- IL-12 -- is a damned nightmare at that time of day every weekday.
posted by sugarfish at 9:31 PM on July 16, 2009

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