Saturday 5th December 1970
Highway administrators piled into a car and took a ceremonial drive through a paper ribbon at the entrance to the final segment, known as the West Leg, of the infamous Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago, US. The road got its name from Cook County Chairman Dan Ryan, who had written the 1955 bond issue that directed many millions of dollars to the county’s expressway-building fund. As of 2005 up to 307,100 vehicles use a portion of the Dan Ryan daily. The Dan Ryan, and its North Side counterpart the Kennedy Expressway, are the busiest roads in the entire state of Illinois. Utilising an express-local system, the Dan Ryan has fourteen lanes of traffic; seven in each direction, with four of those as express lanes and the other three providing access for exit and on-ramps. Despite its width, the Dan Ryan is prone to traffic jams. The posted directions on the Dan Ryan are different from the actual compass direction of the expressway, which may cause confusion to many travelers. The Dan Ryan for its entire 12-mile length runs north–south. However, the Dan Ryan is a part of the larger Interstates 90 and 94, which both run east–west through the United States. Many–perhaps most–of Chicago’s urban expressways smashed right through some of the city’s poorest and most troubled neighbourhoods, and the Dan Ryan was a particularly notorious example. Besides displacing residents and businesses and destroying a thriving community, historians argue, the Dan Ryan formed an impenetrable boundary, “the most formal impediment short of an actual wall that the city could have build to separate the white South Side from the black South Side.” From a city-planning point of view, the Dan Ryan was a disaster, and from a transportation-planning point of view it was not much better. So, in 1988, the city undertook a $210 million repair project, and in 2004 it undertook another, spending $450 million to make the road cleaner, less hazardous and less congested.