Graffiti on long-delayed Jane Byrne Interchange project site brings questions of safety

The construction zone has become littered with more “tagging” than Illinois DOT can manage to remove

November 13, 2020 / 2 minute read
Graffitti on long-delayed Jane Byrne Interchange project; screencap: CBS 2 Chicago

A report recently broadcast on CBS 2 Chicago brought to light a growing issue on the Jane Byrne Interchange project just outside the city’s Loop—an issue of pervasive graffiti along the entire breadth of the project site.

Reporter Jermont Terry explained that nearly every night, despite the fact that the Jane Byrne worksite is monitored by Illinois DOT and state and local police, taggers are gaining access to the project site and leaving their mark more or less wherever they please.

Local residents who live near the project site said they see new graffiti nearly every day, and that as soon as a new piece of the construction is erected, it is tagged, sometimes that very night.

Lyndsey Thorne was quoted as saying, “I am curious, actually, how it keeps happening, because there is construction all night long.”

Large sections of the Jane Byrne site are protected by little more than jersey barriers, making access to the site for those not meant to be there relatively easy. As such, the continued appearance of new tags raises issues of safety—both for workers and for those who are doing the graffiti. Because it is an active work zone, safety measures are required, and while there has yet to be an incident where a graffiti artist has been injured, the question of liability looms in the event one does occur.

This confluence of I-290 (the Eisenhower Expressway), I-90 (the Kennedy Expressway), I-94 (the Dan Ryan Expressway) and Congress Parkway was initially built in the 1950s and 1960s for a significantly more modest population level. Today, the interchange withstands some 400,000 vehicles per day, and traffic surges during peak commuting hours and amidst major sporting and civic events can rocket that already extraordinary number even higher.

IDOT said its crews have tried removing some of the graffiti, but there are sections too dangerous for them to access, due to proximity to live traffic and ongoing operations. IDOT said it will remove inflammatory and racially offensive words as quickly as possible.

The Jane Byrne Interchange Project, which was originally slated for a 2019 completion date, is now expected to continue for at least two more years.

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