Nov 5, 2010

Northwest Passage

The Northwest Expressway, looking south from North Avenue, 1960

November 7, 1945:

AGREE ON ROUTE FOR HIGHWAY TO DOUGLAS PORT: A tentative route for the northwest super-highway of 16.3 miles connecting the Douglas airport with the north side, the loop, and the Congress st. super-highway was agreed upon yesterday [...] providing an eight lane depressed high speed highway along a northwest diagonal route.

November 5, 2010:

It was at 11 a.m. on Nov. 5, 1960, beneath a bunting-draped Lake Street overpass, that Illinois' political powerhouses, Gov. William Stratton, Mayor Richard J. Daley and Cook County Board President Dan Ryan, officially opened the Northwest Expressway.

Although it followed by only weeks the completion of the Congress Street Expressway, now the Eisenhower, Stratton called it "the greatest highway in America."

Three years later, the expressway would be renamed for President John F. Kennedy, a week after he was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. That was only fitting because the expressway shared a special link with the young president who captured the city's heart. During Kennedy's three visits to Chicago, hundreds of thousands lined the route to watch his motorcades.

Construction of the Kennedy — it cost $232.3 million — became the foundation for Daley's reputation as a master builder and helped transform the small suburban Orchard Field into one of the world's busiest airports, O'Hare.

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