We will be driving from O'hare airport (Chicago ORD) down into Indiana and headed east on I-80 later this week (weekday morning). I'm familiar with the roads, but not familiar with traffic loads.

Based on current construction and traffic experiences, would it be better to take I-90 close to downtown, or take I-294 and avoid downtown (but hit several busy interstate interchanges with I-80 before the Indiana border)? Toll price differences don't concern me, I just don't want to be stuck in any more gridlock than I have to.

  • Does Google maps include traffic data for those roads like they do for major routes here? That's often the best way to compare - they'll have average delays built in, and that morning you will also get live traffic delay updates.
    – Rory Alsop
    Jul 2, 2018 at 17:26
  • 2
    If you have a smartphone, I'd install Waze (or Google Maps) and do whatever it told me to do at the time. That will adjust for actual traffic conditions at the time. Jul 2, 2018 at 18:04
  • Check Google Maps or Waze everyday about that same time you'll be traveling and it will tell you in real time what traffic is like then. Traffic patterns don't differ that much day by day. Regardless: expect hell. Jul 2, 2018 at 20:09
  • Avoiding Chicago traffic? The only consistent answer might be driving in the middle of the night. Jul 9, 2018 at 22:07

3 Answers 3


Routes thru Chicago will be better or worse, that being relative. However since your criterion is stress-free, without any particular emphasis on speed or cost:

  • Do what the railroads did to avoid Chicago congestion: cross on a carferry. Go northeast to Milwaukee and cross the lake on the Lake Express catamaran carferry to Muskegon, Michigan then south. Or for the classic experience, go farther north and take the genuine, original SS Badger from Manitowoc, WI to Ludington, MI, which actually did haul railroad cars.

  • Take a commuter flight from ORD to South Bend regional airport and overfly the whole mess at 300 knots. Or Elkhart.

  • Rail through and past the city: Chicago "El" from ORD to downtown, then at Millennium (Randolph) station the Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad east to a place with a car rental, either Michigan City, or South Bend Regional airport again lol.

  • fly into DTW instead of ORD. DTW is the largest international airport in the Great Lakes region (besides ORD) and DTW to the turnpike doesn't involve any significant traffic. In fact you can parallel the turnpike on free I-94 and drop down where convenient.


If you are driving in the morning, then 294 would be your best bet since you are not joining commuters heading into the city for the first part of your drive.


To provide a followup, we ended up taking I-90. According to Google Maps drive time was about the same either way. Had typical congestion leading into the Jane Byrne interchange, but never stopped moving, and once we got past that point, it was smooth sailing across the Skyway. Quite stress-free compared to some of my times trying to traverse Chicago interstate traffic.

  • I was going to suggest Skyway. The rule of thumb that I heard was "the '2' in '294' stands for 'twice the time' Jul 10, 2018 at 2:11

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