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  EconomicsTransportation and CommunicationsRoads and Highways
 
Congress Street Expressway

a major street in Chicago, Illinois, that runs east as I-90 from the Circle Interchange (where Interstates 90, 94, and 290 come together) to Wells Street, and then as a surface street all the way to Columbus Drive in Grant Park

(left) The Congress Street Expressway heading west, approaching the Chicago River drawbridge and Post Office (through which it passes via a tunnel).
(right) The Circle Interchange.

westbound, heading to the Chicago River and the Post Officethe Circle Interchange

A broad boulevard on the line of Congress Street that would cut through the long blocks between Van Buren and Harrison Streets, connecting a cultural center of new buildings in Grant Park to a new civic center centered on Congress and Halsted Street, then extending westward to parks and suburban areas beyond the city limits was first proposed in 1909. The proposal was bandied about, but no serious planning was done at that time.

In 1940, the City Council of Chicago established the Westside Route, or Congress Expressway, as their first priority in a comprehensive superhighway system. Work was expected to begin quickly, but skyrocketing costs, limited funding, extensive utility relocation, poor subsurface conditions, and the need for agreements with three railroads, municipalities and a cemetery all added time and cost to the project schedule. The Expressway had to be carried above Clinton and Canal and Streets, pass under the Chicago Post Office at a level similar to surrounding streets, and then cross the South Branch of the Chicago River on twin drawbridges. East of the river, ramps connecting to Franklin Street and two levels of Wacker Drive had to be built and the platforms of LaSalle Street Station had to be reconstructed to accomodate an underpass. And, all of the planning and construction work had to accomodate the CTA Congress Line in the median and the temporary relocation of the Douglas Park CTA line, both of which had to be kept operational during the project.

The surface level section of the Expressway, from State Street to LaSalle Street opened to traffic in 1952, and the entire length was opened to traffic in 1960. It was renamed the Dwight D. Eisenhower Expressway in 1964.

The Congress Expressway as it looked in 1957.

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This page was last updated on March 25, 2016.

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