History of Chicago Metropolitan Area Highways

History of Chicago Metropolitan Area Highways

This article covers the history of highways in and around Chicago.


According to Biotionary, Chicago became a city in 1837, the last metropolis in the United States to receive city status. During the first 60 years, the population grew enormously, from 4,400 in 1840 to 500,000 in 1880 and 1,700,000 in 1900, an increase of 1.2 million in just 20 years. At the time, the city’s growth was one of the largest in the world and by the end of the 19th century, Chicago was the 5th largest city in the world. In 1885, the world’s first skyscraper opened in Chicago. Chicago grew because of its very important function as a distribution center between the gigantic agricultural lands of the Midwest and the large cities in the northeast of the country.

Beginning in the 1920s, heavy industry expanded significantly and numerous steel mills were opened in southern Chicago and adjacent areas of northwestern Indiana. The 1920s brought the rise of organized crime, gangsters and mafia with Al Capone as the most famous person. Chicago became one of the most important industrial cities in the United States. Between 1900 and 1950 the population grew from 1.7 million to 3.6 million inhabitants, then reaching a peak in population.

After the Second World War, the importance of heavy industry declined sharply and prosperity increased, causing many residents to seek refuge in the better suburbs, leaving behind the busy city life accompanied by crime and nuisance. Between 1950 and 1990, Chicago’s population decreased by 800,000. From the 1960s, Cook County, which largely includes Chicago, continued to grow, as people first moved to the suburbs to live just outside the city, in cities such as Skokie, Cicero and Calumet City. Since the 1970s, however, the population of Cook County has also been declining, mainly due to the declining population in Chicago. Despite this, downtown Chicago managed to develop into one of the most important in the United States, especially due to its favorable location on Lake Michigan, which gave rise to high-rise buildings.New York City.

Beginning in the 1960s, the surrounding counties began to grow in population, with expensive suburbs built with large homes in the woods, on the shores of Lake Michigan, and along lakes and parks. Building density is quite low outside the first ring of suburbs. Between 1960 and 2000, DuPage County grew from 300,000 to 900,000 residents. Here are suburbs like Naperville, Downers Grove and Elmhurst. Will County, south of DuPage and Cook County, grew somewhat later, from 250,000 in 1970 to 678,000 in 2010. Here, growth centers around the city of Joliet and the area also has a significant industrial base. However, the most expensive suburbs are in Lake County, north of Chicago. Growth has been slower here and there are quite a few smaller suburbs with the most expensive houses in the entire region. In 2010, 703,000 inhabitants lived here.

Beginning in the 1990s, growth continued in McHenry County and Kane County. Suburbs here include Aurora, Elgin, and Crystal Lake, which are at least 25 miles from downtown Chicago. The infrastructure in this area is lagging far behind spatial developments. The growth of the Chicago metropolitan area has stagnated significantly from 2000, even the suburbs recorded only limited growth after 2010.

First highways

Unlike cities in the northeastern United States, where ambitious highway plans were made from the 1920s and 1930s, there was no such thing in Chicago. Construction here was much more orderly, and the highway network planned from the 1950s was also more or less completed within 20 years, meeting demand between 1950 and 1970. The first freeway to open was the Kingery Expressway. part of Interstate 80 in Illinois. In 1951, the Edens Expressway opened, the first highway connecting Chicago to its expensive suburbs north of the city.

Construction began to take off in the mid-1950s, and in 1955 the first sections of the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290), the city’s first east-west highway, were completed. Also, in the mid-1950s, Interstate 80 and Interstate 90 were completed in Indiana, connecting the industries of southern Chicago and the Indiana suburbs with the markets along the east coast of the country.

In 1956, the Interstate Highway system was developed, and funding was no longer an issue because Interstate Highways were eligible for 90% federal funding. Plans for this were developed in the late 1950s and as a result virtually all highways in and around Chicago are Interstate Highways.

Expansion of the Interstate Highways

Virtually all planned highways in and around Chicago were built between 1958 and 1970. In 1958, Interstate 294, the toll road that was to form the city’s first bypass, opened before major thoroughfares were built in the city itself. The first of these, the Kennedy Expressway, opened in 1960 over 29 kilometers. In the years that followed, most projects were delivered in one fell swoop over large stretches, typical of organized highway construction, compared to the much more fragmented construction in the eastern United States, often opening several miles to traffic at a time.

In 1962, the Dan Ryan Expressway and the Bishop Ford Freeway, both part of Interstate 94 through Chicago, opened in two years, completing the major thoroughfare network connecting Chicago’s downtown districts in two years. The Dan Ryan Expressway was the world’s first expressway with a large-scale parallel structure. Interstate 290, the Eisenhower Expressway connecting downtown to the western suburbs, was also completed in the mid-1960s. This fitted in perfectly with the incipient growth of the suburbs west of the city.

In 1964, Interstate 80 opened south of Chicago, eliminating through traffic from Iowa and westward through the city. Over the years, this corridor would become the second busiest transport corridor in the country. Then there was a gap in the construction of highways, which until then went very smoothly and efficiently.

In 1970, 3 major highways opened, Interstate 57, which gave Chicago its highway connection to the south, eliminating the need for St. Louis to get to the south coast. In 1970 and 1972, the entire I-290 was completed. In 1970, Interstate 355, the city’s second bypass between I-55 at Bolingbrook and I-290 at Addison, also reopened to meet traffic demand west of Chicago due to suburban growth. This was also the last feat of arms for an extended period of time in this part of Illinois.

In 1982, State Route 912 opened in Indiana through Hammond, East Chicago and Gary, reviving the run-down suburbs. Previously, this area was a concentration of heavy industry. The structural problems in this area are serious, such as skyrocketing unemployment and crime. An upgraded portion of Lake Shore Drive through downtown Chicago opened in 1986, at which time the concentration of high-rise buildings along the shore of Lake Michigan increased dramatically, causing additional traffic in this area.

In fact, from 1972, highway construction in the Chicago suburbs came to a complete standstill. Spatial development continued, however, the final portions of DuPage and Cook County were built over, and urban growth spilled over into areas further west and south, such as Kane County and McHenry County. The problems on the underlying road network took on draconian proportions, because this area consisted of a coarse grid pattern with only level roads. For example, the distance between I-88 and I-90 is 30 kilometers, now an urbanized area with no high-capacity connections. As a result, from the 1980s a number of suburbs started developing their own work sites, mainly along the toll roads in what is now the center of the conurbation. It has been argued that suburban traffic is actually worse than Chicago itself. In 1993 the . openedElgin-O’Hare Expressway, an effort to reduce traffic on the secondary road network. This highway was immediately congested from the opening and did not connect to other highways for a long time. Other attempts don’t seem to get off the ground in this area. In 2007, a freeway reopened in the region for the first time in nearly 15 years, extending I-355 to I-80 at New Lenox, creating a third connection through Chicago, after I-90/I-94 and I-294. In 2015-2017, new sections of State Route 390 (formerly the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway]] opened.

Chicago Metropolitan Area Highways