Unfortunately, all that extra traffic had to come from somewhere in order to get there, and the adjoining tollways (I-90 & I-294) backed up for miles in each direction
I-90 is my main route to work.
As I leave my house, there's a spot where I can look to one side and see the tollway, so I can check to see how traffic is before choosing to get on it. Yesterday, that peek revealed that it was wide open. Then I got onto the on-ramp a mile or so down the road, and as the lanes came into view, I noticed that it was quite a bit heavier, but still moving at a good clip. Too late to turn back now, but that's life.
Then it turned into a parking lot. When it's heavy at this point, it's usually caused by a backup in the exit lanes of the next interchange, which happens pretty frequently. Since the left-hand lanes were moving faster than the right-hand lanes, I assumed that to be the case and moved over.
Then, after I was in the middle lane, with a solid line of cars between me and the exit, the right-hand lanes open up completely. Weird, but sometimes you get bubbles in traffic, so I didn't think much of it and stuck to my guns. (Because traffic karma is such that if the lane you're in isn't moving, and you switch into a lane that is, then the lane you switch into will come to a complete halt while the lane you were in opens up.)
Just after I get past the exit, the traffic report comes on and reports that I-90 is backed up from the next interchange ahead all the way to the exit for the airport. Obviously, it's backed up quite a bit more than that, so I know that I should've gotten off while the getting was good. I call into work to let them know that I'll be significantly late, and to turn on the traffic reports if they want to know why. By the point, the traffic reporter was calling this some of the worst traffic he'd seen in a long time.
45 minutes after leaving home, I manage to get off at the next exit. That's normally a 10- to 15-minute ride.
As I make my way onto the surface streets (which, somewhat surprisingly, were relatively open--but it was already past 9 AM at that point, which probably explains it), the traffic reporter announced that the backup now extended back past where I got on, to Illinois Rte. 59. The traffic reports for I-90 never provide time it will take or the length in miles of a backup, just "heavy between point A and point B", but here's some context for you:
The left arrow is where I got on the tollway. The middle arrow is where I finally managed to get off the tollway. Just off the map where the right arrow is, is where I work. "Start" and "Stop" mark the end points of the bumper-to-bumper traffic by the time I got off the road.
That red line from "Start" to "Stop"? Just shy of 22 miles. No accidents, no construction, no inclement weather, just too many people all trying to get to one place and causing a cascade.
East-bound cascades are common there because:
1. Between those points, there are seven on-ramps and two off-ramps. (Both of which are in the middle, as I mentioned above.) Once you pass the last of the two when there's a backup, there's 8 miles of road to travel before the next one at the end of the tollway. (Westbound, it's the reverse--there are seven off-ramps and only two on-ramps. This is because the road designers assumed that everyone in the suburbs would work in the city, and because it's a tollway and the thought is that tollways should generally have limited access points.)
2. Because of north-south highways, forest preserves, and the airport in the area, there is a major limitation to the number of available east-west alternate routes for traffic on I-90, so even if you get off the road, those roads usually can't handle the load of everyone else who's trying to do the same thing.
3. All of the light rail in the area just goes into the city, so anyone doing suburb-to-suburb commuting is out of luck.
I've had longer commutes, personally, but all included either construction, accidents, bad weather, or some combination of the three. But a 22 mile backup simply due to "too many people trying to get to the Allstate Arena an hour ago"? That's just insane.
Hopefully today's commute goes better.
Feudalism: Serf & Turf