The Plan of Chicago did not call for the development of limited access superhighways designed exclusively for automobile use, but its promotion of double-decked streets that separated different types of traffic certainly anticipated them. The construction of Wacker Drive and improvements to Lake Shore Drive called for by the Plan were readily adapted to take on limited access characteristics. During the 1920s, state and federal authorities began to develop a system of improved routes for metropolitan Chicago roughly along the lines of the radial and circumferential system proposed in the Plan of Chicago. Planning these and other regional initiatives was hindered by the uneasy coexistence of two organizations: the Chicago Plan Commission (CPC), responsible within the City’s limits, and the Chicago Regional Planning Association (RPA) for surrounding communities. In 1937, the CPC completed the first portions of the so-called Outer Drive, which transformed Lake Shore Drive into a limited access highway for much of its length. The RPA’s major initiatives included construction of the four-lane divided Skokie Highway, linking Chicago to Milwaukee, which opened in 1938. During the Second World War the RPA, the Chicago Plan Commission, and other agencies joined together to propose a detailed superhighway system. The Edens Expressway (opened 1951) linking the city’s North Side to the northern suburbs, was the first fruit of these plans. The early image of these superhighways set forth in planning documents, journalistic accounts, and popular culture, was overwhelmingly positive and optimistic. The clean lines of the wide roadbeds, the industrial brawn they represented, the apparent safety at speed they enabled fit well into a national mood that, while struggling with two global crises in the 1930s and 1940s, retained (or at least expressed) a faith in modernity and progress, and that with concerted effort and farsighted investment, the country could literally build a better future.



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