Your NPR news source
cars on Kennedy Expressway

Traffic moves northbound on the Kennedy Expressway on Jan. 17, 2024.

Anthony Vazquez/Chicago Sun-Times

The Rundown: Chicago traffic is worse than you think

Plus, Season 3 of “The Bear” will drop earlier than expected. Here’s what you need to know today.

Good afternoon! The Newberry Library has a new exhibit on famed newspaper columnist Mike Royko — and it looks worth checking out whether or not you grew up reading his work. Here’s what else you need to know today.

1. Chicago traffic is the second-most congested in the country, a new report found

Forget LA: The Chicago area had one of the biggest increases in vehicles clogging up roads since the pandemic, the Chicago Tribune reports.

An average Chicago-area driver spent 96 hours in congestion on expressways and local roads last year, according to the annual report from analytics company Inrix. That number put Chicago behind only New York City’s traffic in the U.S. — and the Windy City ranks as the fifth-worst globally.

I-94 eastbound between I-57 and the Eisenhower Expressway in the afternoon were among the most congested of the area’s roads.

The increase may be because of changing office-commuting habits, more delivery trucks on the roads and residents avoiding public transit, P.S. Sriraj, director of the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois Chicago, told the Tribune.

“It just seems like the expressways are congested all the time,” he said. “Because the work from home is not entirely work from home. It’s a random work from home.”

And freight traffic has increased with the boom in online shopping since the pandemic — making up for any cars that may be off the road while employees work from home. [Chicago Tribune]

2. City Council members react to former Ald. Ed Burke’s two-year prison sentence and $2 million fine

Most told the Sun-Times that U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall found the right balance between discouraging political corruption and the mercy they believe the city’s longest-serving alderman earned from his many acts of kindness.

As my colleague Fran Spielman writes, that’s because fellow alderpersons not only feared Burke, they also liked him because he was generous with his time and advice, his campaign war chest, and his vast knowledge and network of government contacts.

Former Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 6th Ward, said Burke — a longtime family friend — “helped a thousand times more people than he may have intimidated.”

And former Ald. Howard Brookins, 21st Ward, said the sentence “could have been a lot worse. Judges are put in a position where they feel that they have to do something. … It is not unreasonable. It’s not outrageous. … And I don’t think that’s a life sentence for his age.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

But others, such as Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th Ward, derided Burke’s corruption.

“It is really shameful to see elected officials abuse the public trust,” Sigcho-Lopez said. “Nobody is above the law.” [Chicago Tribune]

3. A judge won’t overturn a man’s murder conviction despite a report that found ‘powerful evidence’ he may be innocent

In a nearly two-hour ruling yesterday, Judge Angela Petrone said Kevin Jackson’s latest attempt to overturn his conviction did not cite evidence that had not already been considered by his jury and other courts, Matthew Hendrickson reports for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Special prosecutors were appointed in 2022 after it came to light that a former detective in the case was married to an assistant state’s attorney in the Conviction Integrity Unit, which is tasked with reviewing potential wrongful conviction cases.

Jackson has accused the former detective of coercing witnesses to testify against him. The special prosecutors, after a 10-month investigation, concluded that the integrity unit had failed to look into possible police misconduct in the murder case.

Petrone was critical of the report in her ruling Monday, saying she believed the special prosecutors had “inappropriately assessed” the credibility of testimony by witnesses more than two decades after the murder.

She also observed that both special prosecutors have extensive experience representing defendants in post-conviction pleadings. [Chicago Sun-Times]

4. 47 candidates file for Chicago school board elections

The window for hopefuls to submit their minimum 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot closed yesterday with more than two dozen final-day submissions wrapping up the weeklong process, Nader Issa reports for the Chicago Sun-Times.

The number of candidates exceeded most expectations and included parents, former teachers and principals, nonprofit workers and a rapper. Most onlookers had predicted just shy of 40 hopefuls would file signatures.

Not all those who filed in the past week are guaranteed to make it because there will likely be challenges to the validity and number of some candidates’ signatures — a common practice in Chicago municipal elections.

The Chicago Board of Elections will meet in July to discuss any challenges, and the ballot will be set by no later than Aug. 29. Voters will pick in November only between the candidates in their geographic district. [Chicago Sun-Times]

5. Season 3 of ‘The Bear’ will drop earlier than expected

All 10 episodes will be available on Hulu at 8 p.m. CST on Wednesday instead of midnight Thursday, my colleague Courtney Kueppers reports.

Fans can expect to see more tributes to the city’s real-life restaurant scene, members of the cast said during a press conference yesterday.

“It’s intrinsic to the show. That is part of the lifeblood of the show, the Chicago restaurant scene, and I do think this season does reflect how important they are to us telling the story,” said Ebon Moss-Bachrach, who plays Richie, AKA “cousin.”

Ayo Edebiri, who plays chef Sydney and gave a shout out at an awards ceremony this year to soul food restaurant Oooh Wee It Is, added that the show cast and crew has formed tight bonds with a lot of people who work in Chicago restaurants, whether that’s local chefs who have helped be instructive to the show or let the series film at their locations. [WBEZ]

Here’s what else is happening

  • The U.S. surgeon general declared gun violence a public health crisis. [NPR]
  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange agreed to plead guilty in exchange for being released from a British prison. [New York Times]
  • Israel’s Supreme Court ruled the military must begin drafting ultra-Orthodox men. [NPR]
  • Judges temporarily halted part of President Joe Biden’s SAVE student loan program. [AP]

Oh, and one more thing …

Mariscos San Pedro is the flashy newcomer opening up in the same building as Thalia Hall. The chef behind the restaurant is a second-generation Chicago food talent with a flair for experimentation, WBEZ contributor Maggie Hennessy writes.

Oliver Poilevey’s empire includes 2023 James Beard Foundation Awards Best New Restaurant finalist Obelix, longtime Bucktown bistro Le Bouchon and Taqueria Chingón.

Mariscos San Pedro, Poilevey’s new Mexican-inspired seafood restaurant, overlooks 18th Street in the iconic Pilsen structure that also houses Thalia Hall, Tack Room bar and subterranean Punch House — all owned by hospitality group 16” on Center.

“One big thing for us here is we want to offer a bunch of different types of experiences,” Poilevey told WBEZ. That means weeknight fish tacos and a beer for $20, hot and cold seafood towers for a crowd, and wood-fired tasting menus on weekends. But even the fancy fare isn’t fussy: “It’s not a lot of knife-and-fork food here.” [WBEZ]

Tell me something good …

Instead of a long trip this summer, I’m planning to take shorter, day- or weekend-long trips around the Midwest by train. So I’m wondering, what are your favorite quick getaways in the Chicago area?

Will writes:

“I’ve taken the overnight train towards New Orleans several times. While I disembark in Jackson, MS to visit family, one could obviously continue on to the Big Easy. But another option is to visit Memphis, which the train reaches early in the day. You could even just ‘day’ trip there with catching two overnight trains. Leave Chicago one evening, arrive and tour Memphis during the day and then catch the overnight train bound for Chicago that evening.

My wife has mentioned taking a train to Harper’s Ferry, WV. In-laws have taken the short ride to Milwaulkee and enjoyed it.”

Frances writes:

“I love trains, and a daylong trip to Springfield and back to see the Lincoln sites was great fun.”

Feel free to email me, and your response may be included in the newsletter this week.

The Latest
Plus, Chicago actors star in the “Lord of the Rings” musical. Here’s what you need to know today.
Plus, Sueños Music Festival organizers agreed to a five-year deal with the Chicago Park District. Here’s what you need to know today.
Plus, astronomers spotted a black hole nestled in a cluster of stars. Here’s what you need to know today.
Plus, Windy City Smokeout returns this weekend. Here’s what you need to know today.
Plus, Pizza Hut sells tavern-style pies now. Here’s what you need to know today.