We're going to the Indy 500 for the first time this year and are driving down there from the Chicago area Sunday morning. We know we have to start early, but what I want to know is: just how badly does I-65 clog up and how badly do the Speedway neighborhoods gridlock before and after this race? We have prepaid, guaranteed parking a couple of blocks away from our seats, but how early do we need to be moving south (Central time in Chicago) to be sure to be in the stands by noon Indy/Eastern time? (Under light traffic conditions, the drive takes about 3.5 hours.) And what's it like getting out after the race? Any suggestions, other than staying in a hotel closer to the event Saturday night, which we can't do?
Depending on your time of day, I-294/I-80 will be quite slow. There is heavy construction before you get to I-65. That alone will add about 30-60 minutes depending on the time of day.
I can't offer any info about the Speedway area. But, there is a part of I-65 in Indiana between S.R. 10 in Jasper County and S.R. 2 in Lake County that is under construction providing only one lane in each direction. Depending on the time of day you pass thru, delays could be long. We got stuck about an hour driving SB on Easter Sunday (before we bought our Nuvi!)
Here is a link to an article with a detour:
Have a great time at the race!
We're going to the Indy 500 for the first time this year and are driving down there from the Chicago area Sunday morning.
(Under light traffic conditions, the drive takes about 3.5 hours.) And what's it like getting out after the race?
Good for you. I saw the race once....but it took 3 days to do it (long story; only time in history that it rained out 2 days in a row !!)
Chicago is a big place; what general area of town are you leaving from ?? In some circumstances, I-57 and I-74 might be a better route.
My guess on time: Allow at least an extra hour for travel time to get to Indy......and then allow 2 hours to get IN. Worst thing is to be late.
Overall, they do a pretty good job with the traffic.....under the circumstances. Getting to a specific lot might make things worse, however.
Getting out, probably worse than getting in. Reverse the above.....at least.
We're going to the Indy 500 for the first time this year and are driving down there from the Chicago area Sunday morning. We know we have to start early
Family in Bloomington says the best time to leave Chicago would be around 2PM Saturday and find a place to sleep near Speedway. The gridlock starts around 6AM.
Some very good advice from each of you.
I wish we could leave the day before, but for other reasons, we have to be home Saturday night and do the best we can with a pre-dawn start Sunday morning.
I've been through those construction zones on I-294 and I-65 lately. At off-peak times, I-294 is often slower than the freeways directly through Chicago because of the I-294 construction, unless you're willing to run risks by going 65 mph through the posted 45 mph speed limit areas, which I'm not. (And traffic and construction often make 65 mph impossible, anyway, even off-peak.)
At off-peak times, delays are minimal on I-65's Jasper County construction zone (which may or may not include early Sunday morning on the way to the race), but I'm pretty sure that coming north after the race, there will be long delays getting northbound into the one lane zone in Jasper County, so that area should be avoided, either by using back roads that run parallel to the west of I-65, or by using the I-74 to I-57 alternative route to Chicago mentioned by ka1167. We'll probably try that route going home, and if it's still bad ten miles west of Indy, abandon it for backroads going northwest.
Getting out, probably worse than getting in. Reverse the above.....at least.
Not having done it, and we'll see, and every year has its own construction issues that can make things vary, this advice feels right to me. Going to the race, leaving early, allow at least an extra hour to get near Indianapolis, and then allow about two extra hours to go those last few miles that would normally take ten minutes. Getting out will be bad, because it will likely take at least a couple of hours just to get out of the Speedway neighborhood, and then the highways will be even more clogged.
Here was a helpful webpage I found searching some more yesterday, in case somebody else is looking for driving advice, even from a different direction:
The Indiana State Police advice there: be in Jasper County (a square box about ten miles wide each side of Indianapolis) no later than 9am Eastern, which is a helpful guideline added to ka1167's advice to allow at least one extra hour to get to the Indy area from Chicago even if you've left very early.
And I remember that year, ka1167, on TV when there were two rainouts. That was so sad. The stands were a ghost town, the way it looks now during qualifying.
On Sunday morning I was thinking of driving from Chicago to Bethany Beach, Michigan. It normally takes an hour and a half.
I would be on I-94 the whole time until exiting to my final destination.
Do you think the race traffic in the morning would affect my drive?
Would rac traffic at night (4pm-ish) be a problem?
I can't be sure, having not done this, but I don't think you'll have a problem, VikingD. Of course, summer weekend traffic in the I-94 corridor from Chicago to Michigan can be horrible, anyway, even without the race, but Sunday on a three-day holiday weekend (taking the race out of the equation) is not a peak time for that corridor, as Friday and Monday afternoon and evenings are.
But the main reason I don't think you'll have a major issue because of the race is that I-65 remains totally closed down this year for rebuilding between I-80/I-90 and I-94. People using I-65 to go from Chicago to Indy or back have to take a detour to get from I-94 onto I-65 or vice versa, so for most of them, it's just easier to take I-90 to get between Chicago and I-65, and avoid I-94 altogether (until it merges back up with I-90 west of the Chicago Skyway).
Also, the race in Indianapolis runs about 1pm to 4pm Eastern time (3pm Chicago time), assuming there's no rainout, and the wave of traffic won't get to Chicago until at least three hours after that, mostly later. (The one lane bottleneck in Jasper County, Indiana, on I-65 will also reduce traffic getting into Chicago.) So I think you'll miss it, especially if you leave on time.
Last year, on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, we drove between Rochester NY and Chicago, and were nervous about the possibility of race traffic, but we got to Chicago by 6pm and the race traffic, if any, had not yet gotten that far north. It wasn't a problem. That Sunday is actually a very good day to drive just about anywhere other than Indianapolis, Indiana. The road construction is less of a factor (because most road projects that don't involve lane closures are off the table for the holiday), and not many holiday travelers are on the highway that day, and semi-trailer truck traffic is well below normal.
Thanks for the reply, that's great info.
I'm posting this follow-up in case anybody lurks and searches in a subsequent year with a question about driving to the Indy 500.
We arrived at the Marion County line at 9am EDT as the Indiana State Police recommend, and had no problem easily being in our seats well before the start of the race. (If I went again, I’d shoot for 10am at the county line, as we got to the track earlier than needed, though a later arrival runs the risk of much more traffic and delay.) Coming down I-65 from Chicago from 6:30-9:00am EDT, traffic was a little heavier than usual for a Sunday morning but there was no delay until about one mile before the racetrack exits on I-465, two or three miles west of the racetrack, and then traffic moved slowly but stop-and-go steadily to the parking areas.
Getting out, as expected, was far more difficult than arriving, because several hundred thousand spectators try to leave simultaneously. If we go again, we will not park close to the racetrack. That was a big mistake. Traffic gridlocks near IMS right after the race. We had about a 20 minute walk to our car, and then it took us a good 75 minutes to move our car just a few blocks away from our parking space. For one 15-20 stretch minute in our car, we didn’t move even 5 feet. If everyone in your party can easily walk 1.5 miles before and again after the race (carrying whatever you’re taking with you to your seats), you will walk past cars stuck in traffic and get back to the interstate much faster if you park 1.0-1.5 miles from your seats, closer to an interstate on-ramp than to the track. The best neighborhoods to park in for folks willing to trade a long walk for a relatively quick escape onto I-465, I-74, or I-65 might be near W. 25th St. and Parkwood Dr., or near Georgetown Rd and 37th St. Residents of the town of Speedway rent lawn parking spaces, typically for $20.
The police make the arterial local streets in Speedway one-way towards the track before the race and one-way away towards the interstates after the race, but where arterial streets meet, bottlenecks occur, such as one where Georgetown Rd. meets Lafayette Rd. on the way to I-65. Once you reach the interstates, traffic is heavy but flows close to the speed limits, because the problem is getting back to the highway.
Other than the traffic leaving, we had an absolute blast at the race. If you enjoy motor sports, I highly recommend going to Indy at least once, as the experience is very different from what you see and hear on TV and it’s a fun time. The flying starts and restarts at Indianapolis are jaw-dropping thrilling. The best seats may be high above the track with a good look at turns one and two, or turns one and four. It also helps to have a seat with a good view of a nearby large video monitor. The prices are a good value compared to other comparable events. They let you bring in food and drinks (including alcohol) but no glass bottles. (You can websearch a list of prohibited items.) The crowd near us was well-behaved.
So many times people ask advice about something like this and we never find out how it turned out. Thanks for giving a report.
I attend NASCAR races from time to time and the general rule around the circuit is park as far away as you are physically able to walk. This works well at Michigan. I just had an opportunity to try it out at Darlington and it worked well there also. I come from Cleveland to Michigan and do it all in one day. I have found several strategies that work at Michigan. One is to park as far away as possible as you can walk through the parking lots much faster than you can drive. The second is to have a good county map or a GPS unit and find the back roads. Leaving Michigan, I travel a much different path than arriving. The key is to avoid all cities until you are on an interstate. Leaving Michigan this means taking things like the Onstead Highway (a two land road that is anything but a highway). It also involved dirt roads. We probably cut an hour off the travel time by doing this. It took a few years to really learn how to do it but now it is second nature.
Thanks again for your post.
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