Chicago Labor Day Traffic Eighth-Worst in the Nation

Traffic at Major Bottlenecks near O'Hare Airport Will Slow Traffic to a Crawl

Aug 28, 2012, 11:00 ET from INRIX

CHICAGO, Aug. 28, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Every Labor Day, millions of Americans hit the road for one "last" summer weekend, and 2012 will be no different according to INRIX, the leading provider of traffic information.  Through in-depth analysis of recent traffic patterns in the metro area, INRIX predicts that Chicago, ranked as the tenth-most congested city in the U.S.,(1) will claim the number eight spot for the worst cities for weekend road-trippers.

"Although there's plenty to do in Chicago this weekend, recent trends and increases in consumer spending indicate that travelers will be a little less afraid to spend money on gas and hotels, so we're predicting some delays as travelers drive to the airport or out of town for Labor Day," said Jim Bak, INRIX Director of Community Relations.  "Traffic Friday will look like a longer version of a normal Friday rush hour, meaning conditions will be unpleasant well into the evening.  Travelers thinking they'll avoid extra traffic by waiting for Saturday to depart will have better luck as long as they're on the road before lunchtime, as traffic will pick up around 2 p.m. and peak between 3 and 4 p.m."

Key insights from INRIX's Chicago area research include:

  • Traffic will start to build in Chicago around 2 p.m. on Friday, August 31, and will peak from 6 to 7 p.m., before slowly tapering off.
  • Travelers leaving Chicago will have the best luck traveling after 9 p.m. Friday or leaving Saturday morning.
  • Travelers bound for O'Hare Airport will find the train faster than going by car with the average trip taking at least 90 minutes from the city limits to the terminals.
  • Popular getaway destinations including Portage, IN; Lake Geneva, WI; and Wisconsin Dells, WI will see delays ranging from as little as 30 minutes to as much as three hours.

Although traffic patterns on Friday, the big holiday getaway day, will start off like normal rush hour conditions, effects of extra drivers on the road will extend the congested period, with rush hour lasting till at least 8:30 p.m.  Given the expected increase in the number of holiday travelers, combined with inevitable road construction and unexpected delays due to accidents and other incidents, Bak advises travelers to use free tools like the INRIX Traffic app, to help ease drivers' getaway trips with up-to-the-minute information about traffic conditions and travel times.

Additional information about traffic delays heading to popular road trip destinations for Chicago residents is as follows:


Worst Time to Travel

Best Time to Travel


6 – 7p.m.

After 9 p.m.


3 – 4 p.m.

Before 2 p.m.

Around 6 p.m. traffic heading for Chicago Airport will face 19 miles of bumper-to-bumper congestion and average speeds of just 16 mph on the westbound I-90. INRIX advises drivers bound for the airport to allow approximately 90 minutes for their journey. Low speeds then continue to Sleepy Hollow, which will affect drivers heading to Wisconsin, where traffic breaks off and starts to return to free flow speeds.

Saturday appears to be much lighter, indicating that most getaway journeys will have already been made.

Chicago to Rockford, IL (gateway to Galena)


I-90 W

I-290 and I-90 W

Length of Journey

85 miles (1 hour 43 minutes)

90 miles (1 hour 50 minutes)

Worst Corridor

Along Kennedy Expressway to Chicago Airport

Average Speed


32 mph

Friday Travel Time w/Traffic

3 hours 24 minutes

2 hours 49 minutes

Chicago to Wisconsin Dells, WI

Following the severe congestion after Chicago Airport, traffic taking the westbound I-90 will run at healthy speeds until Madison, where speeds slow to 25mph past the Dane County Airport.


I-90 and I-94 W

Length of Journey

206 miles (3 hours 43 minutes)

Worst Corridor

I-43 Interchange, Milwaukee

Average Speed

32 mph

Friday Travel Time w/Traffic

6 hours 43 minutes

Chicago to Lake Geneva, WI


I-94 W and Skokie Highway

Length of Journey

80 miles (1 hour 40 minutes)

Worst Corridor

Along Kennedy Expressway to I-94 interchange

Average Speed

29 mph

Friday Travel Time w/Traffic

2 hours 46 minutes

Chicago to Portage, IN (Cross roads to Indiana and Michigan Dunes State Parks)


I-90 E

Length of Journey

42 miles (57 minutes)

Worst Corridor

I-94 interchange

Average Speed


Friday Travel Time w/Traffic

1 hour 30 minutes


INRIX® is the largest global traffic intelligence platform in the world, delivering smart data and analytics to solve transportation issues worldwide. INRIX crowd sources data daily from more than 100 million vehicles and devices to deliver traffic and driving-related insight, as well as sophisticated analytical tools and services, across six industries in 31 countries.

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(1) As determined by the 2011 INRIX Traffic Scorecard, released May 2012.  For more information, see