Chigago driving advice

Within the next month I will be headed from either home (WV) or from my Dad’s (Pgh PA) to Rutabaga in Madison WI.

A couple of routes are apparent:

  1. The Northern tier, across 90 and through Chicago.
  2. A more southernly route via 70 & 74, up through Bloomington IM, missing Chicago altogether.

    If I travel the northern route I will probably hit the Chicago area late afternoon.

    Any thoughts as to whether I should avoid the Chicago Metropolitan area for my health and sanity?


Mid day or evening is cool. Take lots of toll $$

Late afternoon? Really bad idea. The locals will be able to give you better advice. I only experience it a couple times a year.

Good Luck


Well it depends…

– Last Updated: Feb-22-07 8:54 AM EST –

I live near Rockford, IL, and my wife's family lives in east-central/south-central Ohio, so I have made that drive many times and have utilized both routes. Getting to Chicago in the afternoon (anything after about 3PM during the week) pretty much guarantees you will hit bad traffic going through the Chicago area, and although I have not been on the 90/80 through northwest Indiana lately, there might be construction delays along that section (I really dislike that section of highway... always seems to be bad). However, going through Bloomington/Normal is quite a bit longer and even with the Chicago traffic delays will probably not save you any time. So, it all depends what you dislike the most.. heavy traffic or a longer drive. If your time schedule allows you to miss peak traffic in Chicago I would recommend that route (although I would avoid going through Chicago, take the 294 Tristate).

You should try to avoid Rte 90/94

– Last Updated: Feb-22-07 9:11 AM EST –

going through Chicago at all hours; particularly the portion south of the Loop known as the Dan Ryan Expressway. They are doing multi-year construction and traffic is tough.

I would recommend picking up Rte 90 north and west of Chicago if you can and take it directly to Madison.

You can also get on Rte 294 (tolls) from Rte 80 and 294 will become 94 north of Chicago which you can take into Milwaukee and it does a 90 degree turn and goes into Madison.

Or you can pick up 90 from 294 north of O'Hare and take 90 into Madison.

Definitely do not take I-94
thru Chicago; construction and traffic nightmare!

Late afternoon is going to put you in traffic,and the I-80/94 stretch is a constant headache. However the best options in my opinion are: I-80 to I-294(north), I-294 to I-290(west), I-290 to I-90, and then on to Madison.


I-80 to I-294(north),I-294 to I-88(west),I-88 west to I-39(north), I-39 north to I-90 and then on to Madison.

Good luck and safe driving.

I will be going to Canoecopia also.

I do this trip quite often
Avoid Chicago if possible. Take I-74 across Indiana into Illinois. Grab I-39 at Bloomington and head North. It could save you as much as 4 hours if you were to Chicago at a bad time. Worst case, it will save you 2 hours…

no no no, Chicago!

– Last Updated: Feb-22-07 12:00 PM EST –

We always take the southern route. 74 up to Bloomington, Ill and then 39 straight N. It adds 50 miles to our trip but it's about the same time as going thru Chicago, less stress too!

Dats wut I suspecteed
Us hillbillies don’t care for the “big city” and all of the driving hassles that come with em.

I could live with an additional 50 minutes of drive time if the traffic and hassle were reduced. I was hoping that someone would second my idea!



a bit o’ experience
way way back in 2006 I was on my way to Canoecopia. What I learned was not to hit Chicago during the imagrant’s protest parade.

Really Chicago wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t bad. if you don’t mind a bunch of tolls to go around the town, people that don’t ever let you change lanes, signs that aren’t always “well in advance” of the indicated junction, occationaly unclear signs and a bad selection of radio stations, then Chicago is the place for you. I will probably go through it again this year, but not positive, I am just saying it wasn’t THAT bad.


P.S. when are you coming up through where? I am always looking to see if there will be anyone to (sort of) caravan with. And you being from West By God you should have a CB in your car. I will have mine on.

I’m thinking
thet I will be traveling west on Friday March 2nd. I plan to stay somewhere short of Madison (Janesville?) hit Rutabaga Saturday morn and marathin back to WV Saturday night/Sunday morn.

I will NOT be going to Canoecopia.

And contrary to stereotype, I don’t have a CB in the car!


Do you have the shotgun in the rear window?

Aw c’mon
We’ll go easy on him.

Chicago - - Yuck
Whenever I am going through Chicago, regardless of where I’m heading, I never go through earlier than 10:00 PM to 4:00 AM.

I usually would leave North Central Ohio at about 6:00PM, Turnpike, and be on the otherside by sunrise.

More Advice
By now I think you’ve figured out that I-74 to I-39 to I-90 is the way to go. Going that way, you’ll have a one-dollar toll north of Rockford, that’s it. For your food-planning purposes: As you swing around the west side of Bloomington-Normal on I-74, the Market Street exit has the best selection for eating, everything from Cracker Barrel to most of the major fast-food joints. Pilot gas station usually cheapest. Heading north on I-39, around exit 52 there’s a McDonald’s, Subway and something else exit. Exit 99 is very good, McDonalds,Wendys, Culvers, truck stop restaurant, sub sandwich place. Don’t get off at Rockford, that just confuses the tollway paying issue. Jaynesville is the next good multiple-choice eating spot. But if you need fuel, prices are usually cheaper at the big truck stop near Beloit, just off the highway. I think it’s a Road Ranger. Hope this helps.

Better check your plan
Unless they have changed their SOP Rutabaga doesn’t open during Canoecopia.

is 9-10-11, so I will be a week earlier.

No shotgun in the back window of a Subaru - that would just be wrong. Of course, we only wear shoed on Sundays for teh snake-handling services.

Thanks for all the info!


I’m in such a hurry for a road trip I thot copia was the first wkendo f March…

why the back window?
Subaru has excellent rack! :wink:


– Last Updated: Feb-23-07 11:21 AM EST –

To get from Madison (home) to the east coast, we always take 294 bypass around Chicago, and then head east on I80. To be honest, it's the I80 around Gary IN that I loathe, not the Chicago part. But I90 north of Chicago in the late afternoon isn't much fun with those idiotic toll booths.

And why in heaven's name would you stay in Janesville, second nastiest city in the USA, when you could stay in wonderful Madison? Madison is such a fun town, and Janesville is grim, to say the least.

Janesville, Rockford, whatever
It will simply be a cheap motel for an overnight. This is going to be a marathon trip to pick up a boat with no sightseeing.