Wednesday, June 21, 2017

June 21, 1956 -- Lake Shore Drive ... A Plan to Eliminate the "S-Curve"

June 21, 1956 – The Chicago Plan Commission approves a 15 million-dollar plan that will eliminate the two 90-degree turns on the south approach to the Lake Shore Drive bridge over the Chicago River.  Engineering consultant Ralph Burke was commissioned in 1955 to undertake the engineering studies that would allow the project to move forward.  The main features of the plan he recommends include:  (1) filling in a portion of the lake about 200 feet from the shoreline so that a system of ramps will move traffic from Michigan Avenue at Oak Street onto Lake Shore Drive without an intersection; (2) Ramps will also be created for both Ohio and Ontario Streets at Lake Shore Drive, again through the use of Lake Michigan fill between the shore and the proposed water filtration plant north of Navy Pier with Ohio and Ontario becoming one-way streets east of Michigan Avenue; (3) Wacker Drive east of Michigan Avenue will be extended and double-decked between Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive; (4) On and off ramps will be created to replace the intersections of Lake Shore Drive at Monroe, Jackson and Balbo; and (5) a “trestle structure” [Chicago Tribune, June 22, 1956] will be built to carry Lake Shore Drive to the east of the Naval armory, a building and dock space just to the southeast of Randolph Street.  In the black and white photo above the old Naval armory building is outlined in red.  The recent photo shows the roads as they got built with the site of the old Naval Armory in red. The old “T-intersections” at Ohio, Ontario, Randolph, Jackson and Balbo all remain.    

June 21, 1926 – The City Council Committee on Railway Terminals receives the official estimate for the cost of straightening the Chicago River between Eighteenth Street and Polk.  The total comes to $9,852,062.  Close to $8,000,000 of that sum will be paid by the railroads.  This will be a huge project, but once the finances are in place the entire operation will take just one year to complete.  Seven railroads are involved, with property being sold between the railroads so that their yards might be consolidated and aligned with the street grid, a movement that will open up acres of property for development in the south Loop east of the river.  The above photo gives a good idea of the massive nature of the project.  For more information on this massive project you can go to this feature in Connecting the Windy City.

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