OLD IRVING PARK — Last week saw the start of a three-phase, multi-year project to update sections of the Kennedy Expressway. With traffic already backed up to the border of North Dakota and expected to get worse as the project continues, drivers are expressing their frustration. The Illinois Department of Transportation has issued a response to these concerned commuters, saying the whole operation would go a lot faster if drivers stuck in traffic would use the time waiting to get out of their cars, pick up some tools, and help.
“Insteada scowlin’ at us inside your cars, why don’t you lend a hand?” said Murphy Talarico, 57, an IDOT foreman on the project. “If everyone poured a little concrete or carried some rebar, we’d have this fuckin’ thing wrapped up real quick.”
According to IDOT estimates, if passengers got out of their cars and helped crews while they’re waiting for traffic to move, the project length could be shortened from three years to six months. IDOT has said this project is an opportunity for the public to “put up or shut up” about the department’s efforts.
“We hear all the jokes you make about us,” said Candice Lee, 43, a construction worker for IDOT, “saying they should add an ‘i’ to our name to make it ‘IDIOT,’ saying we’re all just standing around doing nothing all the time. What, do you work constantly at your precious little desk jobs downtown? No, you’re on your phones or staring at the wall, you just don’t have an audience. Grab a jackhammer, let’s see how long you can last before you need a break.”
With construction ramping up over the next several weeks, drivers on the expressway are encouraged to find alternate routes or take some classes to become certified in construction equipment.
“We’re always in need of some helping hands for movin’ heavy shit,” said Talarico, “but we really need someone who can drive a grader. So insteada sittin’ there listenin’ to podcasts, why don’t you hop out, climb in the cab of that thing, and see if you can guess what the levers do.”
IDOT reports that drivers who’ve taken up their offer in the first week of construction report a sense of well-being and accomplishment for pitching in. They also say that accidents are up, and almost exclusively caused by and affecting the volunteers.
“I used to get so pissed off when I was stuck in construction traffic,” said Paul Walker, 42, an executive for a tech firm downtown, “but after helping out all morning, I’m a new, less angry me! Road work is important, and I’m proud to say I pitched in. So when you get off the new exit ramp and wonder why that guard rail looks so crooked, you’ll know it’s because Paul pitched in!
IDOT says work is well underway on the first phase of the project despite several Paul-related setbacks, and has announced to sweeten the deal that everyone who pitches in gets one pop from the cooler in the foreman’s truck.