WBEZ | public works http://www.wbez.org/tags/public-works Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Why the Kennedy backs up at the Edens junction http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-06/why-kennedy-backs-edens-junction-107813 <p><p>If you&rsquo;ve ever driven the Kennedy Expressway to O&rsquo;Hare&mdash;or to the far Northwest Side&mdash;you know about this bottleneck.&nbsp; You sail through the Edens junction, and suddenly everything comes to a screeching halt. Traffic crawls along for the next few miles, until you pass Harlem Avenue. Then&nbsp;the highway&nbsp;opens up again.</p><p>Why does this happen? It all goes back to the original design.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/06-24--Junction_8.JPG" title="Smooth sailing at the Junction--it's Sunday morning!" /></div><p>In the 1950s, when Chicago&rsquo;s expressways were being built, they were geared toward moving traffic to and from the center of the city. Crosstown travel was rarely factored into the planning. Therefore, there was no ramp from the inbound Edens to the outbound Kennedy. Likewise, there was no ramp from the inbound Kennedy to the outbound Edens.</p><p>The Kennedy-Edens junction was complicated enough, with three railroad lines and busy Cicero Avenue right there. Building two additional ramps would involve additional land clearance and be wildly expensive.&nbsp; Therefore, the planners didn&rsquo;t bother with them.</p><p>During the 1960s, a Crosstown Expressway was proposed as an extension of the Edens south along Cicero. This meant that a full Kennedy-Edens interchange would be built. But the Crosstown was never constructed, and the Kennedy-Edens junction remained as it was.</p><p>So today, if you&rsquo;re on the inbound Kennedy (I-90) and want to access the outbound Edens (I-94), you drive through the junction and take the first exit at Keeler. Then you turn left on Keeler, drive under the Kennedy, and take another left&nbsp;up the next ramp. Now you&rsquo;re on the outbound Kennedy, and can get&nbsp;to the Edens.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Keeler%20cross-under.JPG" title="The notorious Keeler cross-under" /></div><p>You can follow the same procedure going from the inbound Edens to the outbound Kennedy&mdash;drive through the junction, then use the Keeler exit/entrance maneuver. But most drivers follow a different route.</p><p>Want to get from the inbound Edens to the outbound Kennedy? Exit at Cicero-Foster,&nbsp;then drive west on surface streets.&nbsp;After a mile or so you can get on the outbound Kennedy at Foster, or at Nagle-Bryn Mawr.</p><p>Now you have all this traffic getting on the outbound Kennedy at Foster, and at Nagle-Bryn Mawr. Meanwhile, there&rsquo;s a significant curve in the expressway that slows&nbsp;things down in the stretch between these two entrances. Result&mdash;a three-mile jam back to the Edens junction.</p><p>So, how to solve this mess?</p><p>1&mdash;Eliminate the Sayre exit. This exit was actually meant to serve Talcott Avenue, which was Illinois Route 62 when the expressway was constructed. The exit is little used today, and is only a few hundred feet from the Harlem exit.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Sayre%20Exit-02%20%282012%29.JPG" title="Is this exit necessary?" /></div><p>2&mdash;Build segregated acceleration/deceleration lanes along the outbound Kennedy between Nagle and Harlem. There&rsquo;s&nbsp;lots of space for them, though the greenery would have to be sacrificed.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Kennedy%20west%20of%20Nagle.JPG" title="Kennedy west of Nagle--plenty of room for extra lanes" /></div><p>I&rsquo;m not a traffic engineer, so I don&rsquo;t know if this is the best solution to the problem. But the present arrangement sure isn&rsquo;t working.</p></p> Mon, 24 Jun 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-06/why-kennedy-backs-edens-junction-107813 What are we going to do about 51st Street? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-05/what-are-we-going-do-about-51st-street-107302 <p><p>When the Orange Line was built in 1993, the planners left an opening in the &lsquo;L&rsquo; structure to accommodate a future extension of 51<sup>st</sup> Street. Twenty years later, that opening is still there, still awaiting the extension of 51<sup>st</sup> Street.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/A--51st%20%40%20Pulaski.JPG" title="Orange Line 'L' crossing 51st Street, at Pulaski" /></div><p>If you&rsquo;re familiar with the South Side, you know that 51<sup>st</sup> Street is a major half-section street. It carries significant traffic from the lake (where it&rsquo;s called Hyde Park Boulevard) straight through to Kedzie. West of Kedzie, 51<sup>st</sup> gradually trickles into a minor side-street until it stops at Harding, just short of the Orange Line viaduct and Pulaski Road.</p><p>A 1902 city map shows 51<sup>st</sup> continuing to an intersection with Crawford (Pulaski). But shortly afterward the Belt Railway constructed a spur track through the area, cutting off 51<sup>st</sup> a block short of Crawford. Since this was&nbsp;a remote&nbsp;part of the city, closing the street didn&#39;t matter very much.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Map%201902%20%28U%20of%20C%20Library%29%20-%20Copy.jpg" title="51st-Crawford [circled] in 1902 (University of Chicago Libraries)" /></div></div><p>By the 1930s the West Elsdon neighborhood was growing up. A streetcar ran on 51<sup>st</sup> as far west as Lawndale. Plans were&nbsp;being made&nbsp;to elevate the&nbsp;Belt Railway. Then 51<sup>st</sup> and its car line could be extended, perhaps all the way to Cicero Avenue.</p><p>More years pass. The 51<sup>st</sup> Street streetcar gives way to the trolley bus, and eventually the diesel bus. More houses are built, but a Belt Railway viaduct isn&rsquo;t. The barrier is still there, and 51<sup>st</sup> remains a local street.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Map%201933%20%28Cram%27s%29%20-%20Copy.jpg" title="51st-Crawford, 1933 (author's collection)" /></div><p>Curie High School opens. There&rsquo;s again talk about elevating the Belt Railway tracks and extending 51<sup>st</sup>, so the bus line can serve the new school. Nothing happens.</p><p>The Orange Line is built. The planners leave that gap in the &lsquo;L&rsquo; structure. Now the railroad tracks will surely be elevated, and the bus run through to the Pulaski-51<sup>st</sup> station. Nothing happens&mdash;and the bus line is cut back to serve the Kedzie-49<sup>th</sup> station.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/B--51st @ Harding.JPG" title="51st Street at Harding, view west" /></div></div></div><p>Will 51<sup>st</sup> Street ever be extended to Pulaski? Perhaps it should be kept the way it is. Archer Avenue passes through just to the north. Adding another arterial street to the area could cause traffic headaches.</p><p>Still, the opening&nbsp;in the &lsquo;L&rsquo; is there in case the city ever changes its mind.</p></p> Thu, 23 May 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-05/what-are-we-going-do-about-51st-street-107302 Last days for the Western-Belmont overpass http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/last-days-western-belmont-overpass-106677 <p><p>The City of Chicago is planning to <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/supp_info/western_avenue_improvementprojectwesternviaductatbelmont.html">tear down the Western Avenue overpass at Belmont-Clybourn</a>. The junction of the three streets will once again be a normal, at-grade intersection.</p><p>Back in 1902 <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/laugh-your-troubles-away-105619">the Riverview amusement park</a> opened at the northwest corner of Western and Belmont. The park drew thousands of patrons each day, most of whom arrived on streetcars&mdash;one of the lines was even named Riverview-Larrabee. Private vehicles of any type were rare.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/04-22--view from Belmont.jpg" title="Western Avenue crossing over Belmont" /></div></div><p>By the 1960s more and more people were driving cars. Traffic around Riverview was congested.&nbsp; The modern solution to the problem was the Western Avenue overpass.</p><p>Fifty years ago, the city was in love with fly-over intersections. Similar viaducts were being built at Archer-Ashland and at Ashland-Pershing. Dozens more were in the talking stage. They were mini-expressways, an efficient way to move traffic.</p><p>The Western Avenue overpass opened in 1962. It did its job well for five years. Then Riverview closed. The new businesses that went up on its site generated significantly less traffic. And when a police station was built at the Western-Belmont corner, the viaduct actually impeded its operations.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/04-22--up%20the%20ramp.JPG" title="Southern approach to the overpass" /></div><p>In 1962 few people had complained about aesthetics. Once the overpass was no longer needed, critics discovered it was ugly. It blighted the neighborhood. Besides, the traffic lanes on the viaduct itself were too narrow.</p><p>Demolition costs were high. So for decades, there&rsquo;s been a death-watch at Western-Belmont&mdash;a death watch on a viaduct. How long before the thing would fall apart, and the city would be forced to tear it down? Now it looks like this is finally going to happen.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/04-22--Loop view.JPG" title="A view that will soon be history" /></div></div><p>Partly because of the Western-Belmont controversy, overpasses have gone out of fashion in Chicago. The city recently announced a project to reconfigure the Elston-Fullerton-Damen intersection. &nbsp;Before a plan to reroute Elston was chosen, there was a proposal to run Fullerton through as an underpass. I don&rsquo;t believe that a viaduct was even considered.</p><p>I have no idea how tearing down the Western Avenue overpass will affect traffic in the area. We&rsquo;ll all have to wait and see. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 06 May 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/last-days-western-belmont-overpass-106677 When Western Avenue was Woodrow Wilson Road http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/when-western-avenue-was-woodrow-wilson-road-106749 <p><p>As any true Chicagoan knows, Western Avenue is the longest street in the city.&nbsp;Would you believe it was once named Woodrow Wilson Road?</p><p>Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, died on February 3, 1924.&nbsp;He&rsquo;d been an icon of the Progressive movement and led the country through the First World War.&nbsp;The Chicago City Council wanted a suitable way to honor him.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/WoodrowWilsonVersailles.jpg" style="width: 250px; height: 365px; float: right;" title="President Woodrow Wilson (Wikipedia)" /></div><p>A few years before, after Theodore Roosevelt died, the aldermen changed 12th Street to Roosevelt Road.&nbsp;What was good for a dead Republican president should be good for a dead Democratic one. Since the city already had a Wilson Avenue, it was decided to use President Wilson&rsquo;s full name on his street.</p><p>It&rsquo;s not clear why the lawmakers chose Western Avenue for renaming.&nbsp;On April 25, 1924 they voted to re-designated the street as Woodrow Wilson Road.</p><p>The 12th-to-Roosevelt change had caused little controversy.&nbsp;But now the property owners along Western objected to the expense involved in renaming their street. Within a few weeks they&rsquo;d gathered over 10,000 signatures asking that the old name be restored.</p><p>The&nbsp;<em>Tribune</em> sent its inquiring reporter to the corner of &ldquo;Washington Boulevard and Woodrow Wilson Road&rdquo; to gauge public opinion.&nbsp;Most people said the change didn&rsquo;t make any difference to them.&nbsp;One young lady&nbsp;did say&nbsp;she favored the new name because &ldquo;it sounds lots nicer, [and] we see enough old things around here.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/04-25--Woodrow%20Wilson%20Street%20%28Detroit%29.jpg" style="width: 250px; height: 167px; float: left;" title="Woodrow Wilson Street, Detroit" /></div><p>The property owners prevailed.&nbsp;Less than a month after its original action, the council ordered the&nbsp;street changed back to Western Avenue.&nbsp;A&nbsp;proposal to rename Navy Pier after Wilson went nowhere.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>In 1927 the council changed Robey Street to Damen Avenue, despite resident protests. When Crawford Avenue was renamed Pulaski Road in 1933, that set off a battle that lasted 19 years before Pulaski was legally accepted.&nbsp;More recently, a&nbsp;proposal to change part of Evergreen Avenue to Algren Street was abandoned in the face of local resistance.&nbsp;</p><p>The lesson seems to be that changing a street name will always&nbsp;rub some people the wrong way. That&rsquo;s why the city came up with the idea of honorary streets.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Note: The successful move to change Woodrow Wilson Road back to Western Avenue was spearheaded by Alderman Joseph Kostner.&nbsp;Today the city remembers him with an official street named Kostner Avenue.</em></p></p> Thu, 25 Apr 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/when-western-avenue-was-woodrow-wilson-road-106749 Chicago's highway in the sky http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/chicagos-highway-sky-106606 <p><p>On April 16, 1958&mdash;55 years ago today&mdash;Mayor Richard J. Daley dedicated the latest and greatest of his public works projects. Chicago now at its first modern toll highway, the Calumet Skyway.</p><p>Construction took two years and cost $101 million (about $850 million in today&rsquo;s money). The elevated highway ran 7.5 miles southeast along the Pennsylvania Railroad embankment, from State-66th to the Indiana border, where there was a direct connection&nbsp;with the Indiana Tollway.&nbsp;The speed limit was 50, and the toll was 25 cents.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/04-16--all%20roads.jpg" title="All roads lead to the Skyway! (author's collection)" /></div></div><p>The morning&rsquo;s ceremonies began at the Indiana end at 10:45 a.m.&nbsp;With 400 dignitaries and invited guests on hand, Daley and Indiana&rsquo;s lieutenant governor cut the ribbon.&nbsp;Then the toll barriers were raised.</p><p>First vehicle on the new road was a school bus carrying 31 students and two teachers from Neil Elementary School.&nbsp;A 5th grade class&nbsp;from the school wrote to the mayor asking for the honor.&nbsp;The official motorcade followed.&nbsp;They all stopped at the 86th Street Toll Plaza for another ceremony. Finally, with all the speeches and pictures taken care of, the Skyway opened to the public.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/04-16--86th Street.jpg" title="Skyway toll plaza (author's collection)" /></div><p>At a luncheon that afternoon, Daley thanked all those who had worked on the project.&nbsp;He called the Skyway &ldquo;a monument to the I Will spirit of Chicago [that] rebuilt the city after it was destroyed by the great fire of 1871.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image ">The new road was part of the toll highway&nbsp;route being built between New York and Chicago. County Board President Dan Ryan noted that the city was hard at work on its own network of expressways.&nbsp;One day a motorist&nbsp;might be able to drive from the Loop to Manhattan without stopping for a single red light.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The Calumet Skyway was soon renamed the Chicago Skyway.&nbsp;The road was heavily used until I-94 was built.&nbsp;That was a free expressway, and traffic on the Skyway plummeted.&nbsp;In 2005 the city leased its white-elephant toll road to a private company.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/04-16--bridge.jpg" title="Skyway bridge over Calumet River (author's collection)" /></div><p>Technically, the Skyway is not a toll road.&nbsp;When the project got underway, someone discovered that the City of Chicago did not have the legal power to build toll highways.&nbsp;However, the city did have the right to operate toll bridges.</p><p>The new road had a high-level bridge over the Calumet River.&nbsp;That solved the problem.&nbsp;The Skyway was officially designated a toll bridge&ndash;with very long approach ramps.</p><p>Maybe we should change that &ldquo;I Will&rdquo; slogan to &ldquo;I Will Find a Loophole.&rdquo;</p></p> Tue, 16 Apr 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/chicagos-highway-sky-106606 Snow Removal before plows, trucks and snow blowers http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-02/snow-removal-plows-trucks-and-snow-blowers-105740 <p><p>Time for a snow story.</p><p>In 2013, city snow removal is fairly routine&ndash;send out the snow plows! But a century ago, cars and trucks and motor vehicles were rare. And Chicago already had 2 million people. How did they get rid of the snow?</p><p>If a street had a streetcar line down the middle, you could attach a plow to the front of a work car, run it down the tracks, and clear a path that way. But there was still snow piled up on either side of the tracks. Besides, most streets didn&rsquo;t have tracks to operate those plows.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2-27--Snow%20car%20%28author%27s%29.jpg" title="Streetcar company snowplow (author's collection)" /></div><p>Well, how did <em><u>you</u></em> get rid of snow before you had your Toro? Right&ndash;you shoveled it! Before there were motorized snow plows, men with shovels had to clear most of the city&rsquo;s streets. That&#39;s the way it was done in 1907.</p><p>On December 16 that year, Chicago was just getting through a major snowstorm. Clearing the streets in and around the Loop&nbsp;was a priority.</p><p>Snow removal was then the responsibility of each ward superintendent.&nbsp; Downtown, in the First Ward, the super hired 312 day laborers to remove the snow. Their job was to shovel the snow up into the back of horse-drawn wagons.</p><p>Once the wagon was full, the teamster would drive the wagon to the end of Van Buren Street, then dump the snow into the lake. The wagons were also hired on a daily basis. They were paid for each trip they made.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2-27--Michigan Avenue.jpg" title="Clearing snow off Michigan Avenue, 1908 (Chicago Daily News)" /></div><p>You can guess what happened. As the <em>Tribune</em> put it, the drivers began&nbsp;&ldquo;nursing their work along.&rdquo; Instead of dumping all their snow into the lake, they were coming back to the job site with part of the load still in the wagon. They&rsquo;d have to make more trips, and get paid more money.&nbsp;</p><p>By afternoon the drivers were becoming bolder. One person noticed that every fourth wagon returning from the lake was piled with snow&ndash;the drivers weren&rsquo;t bothering to dump any of it. They were just driving up and down Van Buren.&nbsp;</p><p>The situation was reported to Mayor Fred Busse. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ll look into it as soon as I can get in touch with the ward superintendent,&rdquo; the mayor told reporters. &ldquo;They ought to have an inspector for those wagons.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>That was the snow scandal of 1907. Today&nbsp;Chicago has&nbsp;the most modern&nbsp;methods of snow removal anywhere, and we are assured that our full-time city workers always give us an honest day&rsquo;s work for an honest day&rsquo;s pay. Am I right?</p></p> Wed, 27 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-02/snow-removal-plows-trucks-and-snow-blowers-105740 Raising Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/raising-chicago-105064 <p><p>The ad appeared in the <em>Tribune</em> on January 29, 1857. James Hollingworth was prepared to move or raise your building. In 1857 Chicago, that was a booming business.</p><p>The city had been built on marshy ground near the lake. As the population grew, this became a public health problem. Cholera outbreaks were frequent. In 1854 alone, the disease wiped out 1 in 20 Chicagoans.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/01-29--Street%20ad.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 145px; float: right;" title="'Chicago Tribune'--January 29, 1857" />City officials decided to construct a sewer system&ndash;that would take care of the deadly waste. Drainage would be difficult, since Chicago sat only a few feet above Lake Michigan. There were two options: (A) abandon all of downtown and start over on higher ground, or (B) jack up all the buildings where they were.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The city chose &rdquo;B&rdquo;.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Starting in 1856, Chicago raised itself out of the mud. Buildings were jacked up as much as fourteen feet, and new foundations put under them. Then the sewers were constructed on top of the old street level. When the sewers were completed, they were covered over and the land filled in to meet the new level of the buildings. The last step was paving new streets on top of the fill.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">As mentioned, many people went into the building-raising business. One of the most successful entrepreneurs was a young cabinet maker named George Pullman.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Pullman contracted to raise an entire block on Lake Street at the same time. He had 6,000 jackscrews put under the buildings, and hired 600 men to take charge of ten jacks each. On the signal, each man turned the screws on his ten jacks one notch. The buildings went up a fraction of an inch.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1-29--Lake%20St%20raised.jpg" title="Raising Lake Street, 1860 (Wikipedia)" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">This process was repeated again and again over four days. Meanwhile, temporary timbers were placed under the buildings and new foundations constructed. Then the buildings were lowered into place. All this was smoothly done, while business inside the buildings went on as usual.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Sometimes putting a new foundation under a building wasn&rsquo;t practical. In that case, you hired a moving company. They would put wooden logs under your structure and roll it to a new lot. Chicagoans got used to the sight of buildings slowly advancing down the middle of the street.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Raising the city took nearly twenty years. In the end, Chicago had the most modern sewer system in the world, and public health was much better.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 29 Jan 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/raising-chicago-105064 How I named a Chicago expressway http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-12/how-i-named-chicago-expressway-104247 <p><p>Adlai Stevenson II died on a heart attack while walking along a London Street on July 14, 1965. He was a one-term Illinois governor and a two-time Democrat presidential nominee. At the time of his death he was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/12-12--Stevenson%20%28LofC%29.jpg" style="float: right; width: 255px; height: 330px;" title="Adlai Stevenson (Library of Congress)" /></div><p>I was getting ready to start college that summer. I knew a bit about Stevenson and had a favorable opinion of him. Besides, he was a Chicagoan who&rsquo;d been an actual<em> presidential nominee. </em>We&rsquo;d probably never get another person that close to the White House for a hundred years.</p><p>So the day after Stevenson&rsquo;s death, I sent a letter to the <em>Sun-Times</em>, suggesting that the new Southwest Expressway be renamed the Stevenson Expressway. I recounted some of the high points of his career. I also said that the Southwest Expressway would be an appropriate memorial, since it ran toward the ancestral home of the Stevensons in Bloomington.</p><p>A week went by. I&rsquo;d just about decided the <em>Sun-Times</em> had thrown away my letter, when&mdash;they printed it! The paper had edited away about two-thirds of my copy. But there was my letter, on page 27 of the July 23rd <em>Sun-Times</em>, right under the editorial cartoon about President Johnson&rsquo;s proposed Medicare law.</p><p>On September 1st the Chicago City Council voted unanimously to change the Southwest Expressway to the Stevenson Expressway.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/12-12--7-23-65%2C%2027.jpg" style="float: left; height: 382px; width: 255px;" title="'Chicago Sun-Times'--July 23, 1965" /></div><p>I&rsquo;m sure that I wasn&rsquo;t the only one who came up with the Stevenson Expressway idea. Still, it was a heady experience for 17-year-old to think that the movers-and-shakers might actually be partaking of his wisdom.</p><p>A few years later, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. I again sent a letter to the <em>Sun-Times</em> suggesting a street name be changed. I proposed that 47<sup>th</sup> Street be renamed King Avenue. After all, 47<sup>th</sup> was a main street in a Black section of the city, and it ran west into a White section, and wasn&rsquo;t bringing the races together what Dr. King was all about?</p><p>This time, the <em>Sun-Times</em> did not print my letter, or even part of it. South Park Avenue was the street chosen by the city council to become King Drive.</p><p>I retired from the street-naming business for forty years. Then, when Barack Obama was elected president, I wrote to <em>Chicago </em>magazine with my proposal for the street that would eventually be renamed in his honor. I mentioned Wabash Avenue, though lately I&rsquo;ve been leaning toward Franklin Street.</p><p>But that will have to wait until the President&rsquo;s term is over. In the meantime, has anyone noticed that the I-57 expressway doesn&rsquo;t have a name?</p></p> Wed, 12 Dec 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-12/how-i-named-chicago-expressway-104247 Ghost Street: North Ogden Avenue http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-10/ghost-street-north-ogden-avenue-103468 <p><p>Driving north on Ogden Avenue, just&nbsp;past Fry Street, you come upon a concrete railroad overpass, emblazoned with the name of your street and the year &ldquo;1925.&rdquo;&nbsp;You emerge on the other side, and Ogden abruptly ends.&nbsp;You have just discovered a classic example of urban planning gone wrong.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/11-05--Ogden%20%40%20Fry.JPG" title="Ogden Avenue at Fry Street, 2012" /></div><p>Ogden Avenue is named after Chicago&rsquo;s first mayor, William B. Ogden.&nbsp;Like many of Chicago&rsquo;s major diagonal streets, it follows the path of an old trail. The original starting point of the street was Union Park.&nbsp;From there it ran southwest to the city limits and beyond.</p><p>As early as the 1880s, plans were hatched to extend Ogden to the northeast.&nbsp;In 1903, Alderman William E. Dever unveiled an ambitious project to push Ogden through to Lincoln Park, while building another diagonal boulevard from Union Park southeast to the lakefront at 22<sup>nd</sup> Street (Cermak). The idea was to provide two speedy bypasses around the Loop.&nbsp;There would also be two new streets opened for commercial development.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/11-05--Cram's map.jpg" style="float: left; height: 307px; width: 325px;" title="North Ogden Avenue (Cram's Chicago Street Map, 1935)" /></div></div></div><p>The southeast route was never built.&nbsp;But in 1921, the city began constructing the northeast Ogden extension.&nbsp;The roadway was designed to accommodate six lanes of vehicular traffic, with a separate&nbsp;parkway in the middle for streetcar tracks.&nbsp;The first stage was completed in 1925 and dedicated by ex-alderman Dever, by now the mayor of Chicago.</p><p>Construction continued for several years.&nbsp;The most notable feature was a half-mile long viaduct, which carried Ogden over Goose Island and the Halsted-Division intersection.&nbsp;The street was finally cut through to its Lincoln Park terminus, at Clark and Armitage, in 1934.</p><p>There it remained. Buses were becoming the favored form of mass transit, so the new section of Ogden never did get streetcar tracks.&nbsp;Then, the city completed its expressway system in the 1960s. The Ogden extension was no longer needed as downtown bypass, and traffic on the street steadily declined.</p><p>In the area between North and Armitage, neighborhood residents now demanded that Ogden be removed&ndash;the 100-foot-wide swath through their community was a blight, and served no useful purpose.&nbsp;The city agreed.&nbsp;In 1969, the section of Ogden north of North Avenue was closed and built over.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/11-05--Ogden%20Ave%20%28The%20Plan%20of%20Chicago%201933%29.jpg" title="Ogden Avenue, looking southwest from Lincoln Park (The Plan of Chicago 1933)" /></div><p>A few years later, the street was cut back to Clybourn.&nbsp;Then, in 1992, chunks of concrete started falling off the Ogden viaduct on Goose Island.&nbsp;Rather than spend money to fix the structure, the city tore it down.</p><p>Today, except for a couple of isolated sections, Ogden Avenue halts at the Fry Street railroad overpass.&nbsp;That means that roughly two-thirds of the northeast extension has been abandoned&ndash;after taking thirteen years to complete, and costing millions of dollars, and requiring the removal of hundreds of homes and businesses.</p><p>Easy come, easy go.</p></p> Mon, 05 Nov 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-10/ghost-street-north-ogden-avenue-103468 A unique street sign? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-07/unique-street-sign-100960 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Tree%20Street%20Sign.jpg" title="Central and Harrison, 1974" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">I started taking pictures around Chicago in the 1950s, when I was still in grade school. Things only got worse when I went to work and could afford a good camera.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Going through some old slides recently, I ran across this picture. It is not a photo-shopped joke. Once upon a time, the City of Chicago really did nail a couple of street signs into a tree.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The location was a few feet into Columbus Park, where the busses from the Central and Harrison lines have their turn-around. I remember seeing the sign there for many years. When the city switched over to green street signs, they finally decided to invest in a pole. I don&#39;t know long the tree lasted.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">This was the only tree street-sign that I ever saw in Chicago. But if anybody has memories of others, let me know.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 18 Jul 2012 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-07/unique-street-sign-100960