WBEZ | Chicago Skyway http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-skyway Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 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 Emanuel tells city workers not to 'rush' and swap city signs http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-tells-city-workers-not-rush-and-swap-city-signs-86672 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-May/2011-05-17/photo 1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's name has started showing up on some prominent signs in Chicago. But Emanuel said city workers should hold off on replacing the remaining signs that say "Richard M. Daley."</p><p>Emanuel said that on his first day, city workers only changed the signs they saw as "essential."</p><p>"They did the kind of what they thought they needed to do, which is the ones at the airport," Emanuel said Tuesday.</p><p>The new mayor did not mention the Chicago Skyway, where his name also appeared Monday. But Emanuel said he made it clear to the city during the transition that he is not interested in a full-scale swap.</p><p>"I do not want people rushing out, making changes on a whole bunch of signs, wasting time, wasting dollars, for no reason," Emanuel said.</p><p>When Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn took office in 2009, his spokesman said the governor directed state agencies to "replace [former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's] name in a timely and least expensive manner." He added that Quinn's preference was for large signs to be left blank, or read simply "The People of Illinois."</p><p>Emanuel's office said no decision has been made about what the bulk of Chicago's signs will say when they are replaced.</p><p>Also on Tuesday, Emanuel announced plans to trim $75-million dollars from this year's budget. That is a relatively small down-payment on a larger plan to close next year's budget deficit, which is expected to top a half-billion dollars.</p><p>"This is through efficiencies, asking some hard questions that had not been asked in the past," Emanuel said. "I don't so much see it as waste, as it is asking some core questions about a different way of doing business."</p><p>The mayor did not release line-by-line specifics on the budget savings. But, under the plan, the city will cut administrative costs associated with state and federal grants, and take advantage of previously unused grant money. That is estimated to improve City Hall's bottom line by $30-million over the next few months.</p><p>Emanuel also announced he is freezing city contracts that his budget director has deemed "non-essential," for things like equipment rental and office supplies.</p></p> Tue, 17 May 2011 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-tells-city-workers-not-rush-and-swap-city-signs-86672 Privatization woes: Wouldn't it be nice to freeze Skyway toll increases to offset gas prices? http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-04-25/privatization-woes-wouldnt-it-be-nice-freeze-skyway-toll-increases-o <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-April/2011-04-25/skyway-tollbridge.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-April/2011-04-25/skyway-tollbridge.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 334px; " title=""></p><p style="text-align: left; ">(Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/crouch">John Crouch</a>)</p><p>This past weekend, I traveled to Northwest Indiana for Easter. When doing so, I usually will suck up the tolls and take the Skyway. It's a faster route and you don't run into heavy traffic. That's why you are paying big tolls. The last time I took this trip, it costs me $3 at the Skyway toll, $1.50 at the Indiana border and another 60 cents to get off the toll road. That's a toll of over $10, both ways. Add the high cost of gas and that trip to visit family is a costly one.</p><p>So imagine my surprise when I took to the road this weekend. The Skyway toll has gone up from $3 to $3.50. The increase took effect Jan 1, 2011.</p><p>According to the terms agreed upon when the Skyway was privatized, this increase was planned. Term 3 of the five term document states:</p><blockquote><p>Term 3: 2011 and 2012 see another 50c raise in the 2-vehicle max to $3.50 and other vehicles staying at $1.80/axle. Again if the inflation-adjusted rates are greater than the nominal rates they apply as the cap. In effect some toll rates are simply inflation-adjusted since there is no increase in nominal toll rates. Transitioning to two year periods allows the 50c increases in car tolls to occur more frequently.</p></blockquote><p>It goes on to say that in 2014-16, we should see a significant increase in toll in 2-axle vehicles, capping at $4.50.</p><p>Here is the question I pose: If the Skyway was not privatized and still owned by the city of Chicago, would they have the courage to increase tolls during bad economic times? If our mayor and other elected officials faced the decision to raise tolls, would they do so with gas prices hitting all time highs? They might not, avoiding what would obviously be political pressure from voters. But this question is hypothetical, since the city sold off the rights to the toll road years ago.</p><p>I'd like to see the numbers of how many people are on that road after the recent 50 cent hike. When the increase was announced, figures were <a href="http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/5014">down for car traffic on the Skyway</a>. A search of the Tribune archives gave us a similar story when the Skyway toll went up 50 cents in 1987. The Skyway officials worried they would lose 10% of their traffic due to the increase. So it's a given: traffic decreases when tolls go up. But what about when skyrocketing travel costs are factored in? Could we be seeing a mass exodus from the Skyway?</p><p>It is something to think about as we get further and further into privatization deals. Is there a pause button when other travel costs hit a tipping point? Or will the market decide what the customer will bear for crossing a bridge? $3.50 still is three dollars less than what it costs to get from LaGuardia Aiport to Midtown Manhattan.</p><p>But in this case, the worry is that in order for the toll road to make a profit off of the huge sale, it will become part of the economic problem. And there's nothing we can do about it, excpet avoid driving on it.&nbsp;</p><p>And then the expressway will become a luxury, while you sit counting quarters, hoping you might have enough money to get out of your traffic jam.&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 25 Apr 2011 15:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-04-25/privatization-woes-wouldnt-it-be-nice-freeze-skyway-toll-increases-o