Sep 1, 2023 - News

How to avoid Labor Day traffic in Chicago

Photo of traffic on a highway

The Jane Byrne interchange downtown. Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

Today will be a big day on Chicago roadways.

Why it matters: Driving during off times could save you hours in the car this holiday weekend.

By the numbers: Last year, reported traffic increased by 9% on the Friday before Labor Day, compared with 2021, according to Waze.

  • Over the entire holiday weekend, traffic increased by 8.3% compared with the year prior.

What they're saying: "The best times to travel by car over Labor Day weekend are early in the morning or in the evening," says Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, a transportation data provider that works with AAA.

  • "If you must travel during heavy traffic, navigation apps and local departments of transportation can help steer drivers around long delays."

Yes, but: That's easier said than done in Chicago, where construction delays on the Kennedy Expressway continue to stymie even the savviest navigation apps.

  • Good news, though: The Illinois Department of Transportation is opening lanes in anticipation of the heavy traffic weekend.

Details: The biggest peak times were last night, showing almost 20% projected increases in travel times north to Wisconsin or east to Michigan.

  • If you are driving west toward Iowa, the worst time will be today at noon. If you are driving south toward St. Louis, the busiest time will be today around 3:30pm, according to INRIX.

Overall, the times with the least traffic this holiday weekend nationally, INRIX predicts, will be:

  • Friday before 11am.
  • Saturday after 6pm.
  • Sunday anytime (with minimal traffic expected overall).
  • Monday after 7pm.

Of note: After a slight drop in gas prices last week, they have crept back up and are almost identical to the prices last Labor Day in the Chicago area.


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