How would you change the expressways in Chicago?


The Bronzeville Gateway that’s hidden or shrouded on its north side by the Stevenson Expresway. Photo by Curtis Locke. 

The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) asked an unusual question on its Facebook page on Friday:

The Chicago area has a lot of expressways. In recent years, more new expressways have been built. If you were given as much money as you needed and were given the green light to implement any plans for the expressway system, what would you do?

Yesterday I was reading an article on Streets.MN, a land use and transportation blog, about removing urban highways in the Twin Cities (Minnapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota):

If the Twin Cities were to rid themselves of one highway, what one would it be? Or, what segment of one highway could be removed?

It noted that highways around the country have been removed over the past couple of decades, including the conversion of two elevated highways in San Francisco to boulevards (each was damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989). It also linked to this list of 10 highway removal projects that may happen in the near future.

Then also on Friday, Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) president John Norquist (whom we interviewed in November 2011) presented a paper with Caitlin Ghoshal (also from CNU) titled “Freeways Without Futures: Possibilities for Urban Freeway Removal in Chicago“.

This white paper examines factors that make Chicago’s I-55/Lake Shore Drive and Ohio Street candidates for urban freeway removal.


A 15-minute video of Norquist’s presentation at the Transport Chicago conference. 

I went back to the interview to find out what he had said about I-55 – Stevenson Expressway – and Ohio Street feeder ramp on the Kennedy Expressway:

The city collects no money from the Stevenson [whereas it collects taxes from retail-filled streets], and the buildings that are along it are depressed in value because it’s there. If the Stevenson east of I-94 was converted to a street more like Congress, a boulevard that connects to the street grid, that would add a lot of value to the city.


That’s until you get to Ohio, where the traffic engineers had their way and rammed a grade-separated highway all the way up to Orleans, which suppresses the property value all along it until you get to Orleans. So anything like [turning the Stevenson east of I-94 into a boulevard] will create the kind of urban complexity that people like.

I liked that idea so I responded with a brief answer on the MPC’s Facebook page:

We would replace the I-55/Lake Shore Drive connection with a boulevard so that the northern entrance to Bronzeville at King Drive is no longer in the shadow of a monstrous viaduct.

We would also convert the Ohio Street feeder ramp that connects the Kennedy to River North and points beyond with a similar boulevard so that traffic is calmer.

How would you respond to MPC’s original question about changing expressways in Chicago?

Updated June 4, 2012, at 16:55 to embed the video of Norquist’s freeways presentation from June 1, 2012. 

A Complete Streets “heads up” for Division Street


Plan drawings show lack of bicycle accommodations. 

Last year I requested from the city plan drawings for the bridge replacement and road reconstruction at Halsted Street and the north branch canal (near Division Street). Included in the response to my FOIA request were plan drawings from the Department of Transportation’s Division of Engineering for a complementary project, the reconstruction of Division Street between Cleveland Street (east) and the railroad viaduct by the McGrath Lexus dealer (west).

So no one is caught off guard like some felt in regards to the Fullerton Avenue/Lake Shore Drive project, I wanted to give a heads up for a project that I think lacks consideration of the principles of complete streets and Chicago’s Complete Streets policy. In other words, what is proposed is not a complete street. Continue reading A Complete Streets “heads up” for Division Street

Grid Shots – Kennedy edition

All three of today’s Grid Shots photos come from Eric Rogers and feature the Kennedy “Expressway.”


Passing Blue Line trains. With the Chicago Transit Authority’s new 5000-series train cars, the Blue Line will get the Pink Line’s 2600-series cars, to replace the butterfly doors (the oldest car in the system). Read more about the distribution on


A Blue Line train races traffic. 


Stand over a Chicago highway for five minutes and you’ll quickly realize that the traffic never ends. This is the Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94) near Montrose. 

As always, we invite you to add your photos of sustainable transportation in Chicagoland to the Flickr group.