When the Skokie Highway’s ninety-two miles of roadway opened to the public in 1938, it was metropolitan Chicago’s first interregional superhighway. Chief Engineer Robert Kingery and the Chicago Regional Planning Association (CRPA) first recommended the highway’s route in 1926, and construction was completed over the next twelve years. Connecting Chicago to Milwaukee, and assigned the federal route number 41, this highway was revolutionary in its the utilization of a grassy median to separate the opposing streams of traffic, its many grade separations, and the implementation of “stop-and-go” signals that moderated traffic flow. The Chicago Daily Tribune reported that the Skokie Highway was “the longest super-highway in the nation of four lanes or more in width” and “the longest continuous section of divided pavement” in the United States. This photograph from a promotional publication of the CRPA reflects the pride planners took in the highway. The physical separation of the traffic traveling in opposing directions, the muscular railroad viaduct, and the sweeping curve and clean lines of the wide roadway are commonplace today, but they were still novelties when the road was built. Today, Interstate Route 94, the Tri-State Tollway, is now the main route between Chicago and Milwaukee, but Skokie Highway is still used as a favorite alternative to the toll road. A concrete divider has replaced the original grassy median shown in the photograph and the neatly manicured slopes evident in the photograph have been overrun by brush.
Chicago Regional Planning Association. Highways in the Region of Chicago: A preliminary study of the highway transportation of the Chicago region. Chicago: Chicago Regional Planning Association, 1925
Chicago Regional Planning Association. Planning the Region of Chicago. Chicago: The Lakeside Press, 1956.
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Jakle, John. “Landscapes redesigned for the Automobile.” The Making of the American Landscape, ed. Michael P. Conzen. London; HarperCollins Academic, 1990.
Kramer, Eugene. Planning and Building Expressways in the Chicago Area: A Brief Description of the Governmental Apparatus. 1958. Chicago: Chicago Area Transportation Study, 1958.
McShane, Clay. Down the Asphalt Path: The Automobile and the American City. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.
“Twin Railroad Structures over U.S. 41, Lake Forest, Illinois,” from Planning the region of Chicago, by Daniel Hudson Burnham et al. (Chicago, Chicago Regional Planning Association, 1956), p. 89. The Newberry Library, folio W 999 .134