The Interstate 80 bottleneck continued Friday, although a state transportation official said there were signs traffic through the westbound construction zone moved more smoothly through Joliet – at least until a car fire in the mid-afternoon.
The Illinois Department of Transportation also provided travel times from last weekend, showing that motorists at times crawled for two hours in the eastbound lanes where the construction took place.
However, the numbers from last weekend showed the worst travel times, as expected, were on Friday, with traffic flowing relatively smoothly for much of Saturday and all day Sunday.
IDOT is in the second weekend of an eight-weekend construction project alternating between eastbound and westbound lanes in Joliet.
The plan is to continue switching between eastbound and westbound lanes each weekend for the length of the project, which includes road repairs and bridge deck patching, IDOT spokeswoman Maria Castaneda said.
“The reason for this is to not impact the same direction of traffic multiple weekends in a row,” she said.
IDOT has been advising motorists and truckers to seek other routes to avoid the construction, which narrows I-80 to one lane in the direction in which the work is being conducted through the weekend.
Castaneda said traffic appeared to be moving faster through Joliet at times Friday morning than a week ago.
“Additionally, it does not appear that vehicles were jumping off at Larkin Avenue, Houbolt Road or going into downtown Joliet,” she said.
Afternoon traffic, however, was slowed down by a car fire at about 2:30 p.m. in the westbound lanes. And, even eastbound lanes were reduced to a crawl at about 1:30 p.m.
Travel times could improve in the coming weekends.
“Typically, the first few days or first couple of weekends tend to be the most challenging,” Castaneda said. “Over time, drivers usually find new ways of navigating their trips, and conditions tend to improve.”
The lane closures occur between 10 p.m. Thursday and 5 a.m. Monday.
Travel times provided by IDOT showed just how bad they were and when during the first weekend of eastbound construction Sept. 9 to 11.
The numbers provided by IDOT measured travel time on I-80 eastbound from Shepley Road in Minooka to Route 30 in New Lenox.
• On Friday, Sept. 9, it took 20 minutes or less for eastbound traffic to travel through the Joliet area until 5 a.m. After that, it became increasingly longer, reaching an hour by 6:35 a.m., when the average travel speed at Midland Avenue in Joliet was less than 5 mph.
• Travel times peaked for morning traffic Sept. 9 at two hours and six minutes at 8:45 a.m. with an average speed at Hollywood Road in Joliet of 3.4 mph.
• It continued to take more than an hour to get through Joliet the remainder of the morning and afternoon and rose again to two hours at 1:40 p.m. Travel times ranged between 1.5 and two hours until 7:30 pm. before they began to drop the rest of the day and reached 20 minutes again at 9 p.m.
• On Saturday, Sept. 10, travel times through the morning were less than 20 minutes until 8 a.m. and fluctuated between 20 minutes and a half-hour until noon. Travel times fluctuated through the afternoon, peaking at 46 minutes at 5:45 p.m. before declining for the rest of the night.
• On Sunday, Sept. 11, traffic flowed smoothly through the construction zone all day, never topping 20 minutes.