A series of diagrams and maps embedded in The Plan of Chicago called for the creation of railroad loops and belts and new harbor facilities that would move processing of heavy freight from the center to the periphery of the city. Though impressive in their justification and execution, to a considerable extent the diagrams and maps in the Plan followed, rather than led, infrastructural developments that began decades earlier. Belt railways that shuttled traffic between Chicago’s mainline railroads existed since the late 1870s, and the vicinity of the Calumet River had been developed as an alternative harbor to the Chicago River since federal funds were appropriated for that task in 1869. The Plan, nevertheless, sought to greatly expand these efforts and to integrate them with one another. Burnham and Bennett called for more circuits "operated for the benefit of all railroads," which would be more effectively connected to the redesigned ports of the Chicago and Calumet rivers. New industrial development was to be encouraged along the outer loops and in an immense warehouse district southwest of downtown. Moving freight handling and warehousing out of the downtown area would, the planners argued, not only improve the efficiency of the trade in Chicago, but would also enhance the attractiveness of the central city as a retailing, entertainment, and business center.



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Hurd, Ray. “The Belt Railway Company of Chicago.” Speaking before the Clearing-Cicero Traffic Conference. (April 17, 1952). http://www2.beltrailway.com