Model for Chicago...Where the Crosstown Expressway Would Be Built

Appearing in early expressway plans such as the City of Chicago Department of Subways and Superhighways’ 1939 Comprehensive Superhighway Plan, the Crosstown Expressway was not a new concept when politicians again pushed it forward in the 1960s. Many variants were proposed, but the route that gained the most momentum would have paralleled Cicero Avenue, creating a north-south link between the northwest (Kennedy) and southwest (Stevenson) expressways.. This model, created by the Crosstown Associates, shows one segment of the expressway where opposing traffic lanes split to minimize the displacement of residents in the neighborhood surrounding Midway Airport (the airport is visible in the upper left corner).  The Crosstown would have extended south to Midway Airport and curved eastward through Chicago’s South Side until it connected to the Dan Ryan Expressway between 75th and 87th streets. Planners advocated the new route, in terms echoing those of the Plan of Chicago claiming it would free up congested streets surrounding industrial firms in the Far West Side. After witnessing the disastrous side effects of urban expressway building during the previous decade, communities banded together to challenge the Crosstown Expressway project. Grassroots community groups, like the South Side Anti-Crosstown Coalition, urged politicians to halt construction. Recognizing the concerns associated with urban expressway construction, the designers promoted the superhighway as a “total development concept,” with a public transportation component, that would serve local and regional needs. In 1979, the Plan was abandoned and funds originally earmarked for the project were diverted to improve existing roadways in the region and expand the city’s rapid transit system (including the O’Hare extension of the Blue Line, and the creation of the Orange Line).

 

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Crosstown Executive Board. The Crosstown: Lifeline for the Middle City. Chicago: Crosstown Associates, 1972.

Gotham, Kevin Fox. “Political Opportunity, Community Identity, and the Emergence of a Local Anti-Expressway Movement,” Social Problems 46, 3 (1999): 332-54.

Lewis, Tom. Divided Highways: Building the Interstate Highways, Transforming American Life. New York: Penguin, 1997.

Mumford, Lewis. The Highway and the City. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1964.

“Model for Chicago... Where the Crosstown Expressway Would Be Built. View of Midway Airport in Corner.” Chicago History Museum. HB-31407-G