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This section of the website is devoted to providing the visitor with insights into the past, present and future of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System as well as resources and links to sources of additional information on interstate topics. PHOTO: Pouring concrete, I-90/94 (later the Dan Ryan Expressway), looking North at 60th Street, Chicago, Illinois, 9/6/62. IDOT Aerial Surveys Section Art Kisler Collection Photo 16107.

Website visitors who would like to contribute to this section are cordially invited to do so. Send your Interstate stories and insights to:

Tom McAvoy
Interstate Stories / Insights
IDOT, Region One
201 W. Center Court
Schaumburg, IL 60196
FAX: 847-705-4666
E: mcavoytj@dot.il.gov

Periodically, this section of the website will be updated with additional, new stories and resources, so visit again ...

Remembrance on Initial Interstate Construction
By Henry C. Bankie

Taking my thoughts back in time about 60 years, I realize that some of the interstate highways were started as major improvements of other routes and were converted to or replaced by interstate routes.

ROUTE 66: One example of this I have to share with Bob Schmidt and Jack Oller. It occurred in McLean, in front of the well-known Dixie Truck Stop, along the famous U. S. Route 66 between the towns of Funks Grove and Atlanta, south of Bloomington. In the early 1950’s, the state of Illinois was improving all of Routes 66 into 4 lanes and this approximately 8 miles was the final phase. Bob was project engineer with Jack and I as assistants. There were no hotels or motels within the area of this project so we each rented sleeping quarters in private homes. We made the Dixie Truck Stop our home for meals and some of the necessary indoor office-type work. Within about 3 years, this part of Route 66 improvement became part of the new Interstate Route 55. The older Route 66 lanes became a frontage into McLean and the Truck Stop.

WALKING ON ILLINOIS RIVER ICE / I-74 / MURRAY BAKER BRIDGE: Then Bob and I came back to Peoria (Jack transferred to another District) and started the first actual interstate construction in District Four, Peoria; which was the I-74 bridge over the Illinois River. During the summer of 1954, Len Ziniel was in charge of building demolition for the bridge approaches while Bob and I laid out base lines along the Peoria shoreline. We measured them about 4 times at various times and weather conditions, making temperature adjustments, and averaging the results in order to provide the most accurate triangulation possible when determining bridge pier locations in the Illinois River.

The contractor started work during November 1954. With the use of 3 surveying instruments, floating timber platforms were moved into position of the instruments’ cross-hairs and then spudded into place by lowering steel beams into the river mud bottom. Sheet-piling was driven around the platform to form a cofferdam and the interior was de-watered. Construction of the piers started on a rock bottom or on bearing piles driven into the mud to rock. The contractor could place concrete all winter, because it was fairly easy and simple to tarp over the cofferdam and provide heat inside with fuel oil or propane salamanders.

Sometimes getting out to the cofferdams was an adventure. We engineers had a 12-foot aluminum boat powered by a 10-15 horsepower motor. When sheets of ice were moving downstream during winter darkness, the boat would run up on a sheet of ice, making it necessary to get out of the boat, push it off the ice, hop back into the boat, and proceed to the cofferdam. PHOTO: I-74 Murray Baker Bridge over Illinois River, Peoria, Illinois, 3/21/1958. IDOT Aerial Surveys Section Art Kisler Collection. Photo 14438.

By springtime, some steel erection could start and we each had our first experience in “walking the beams.” I soon found it easier to scoot along on my butt on windy days; especially when carrying transits or levels.

Near the end of the river bridge construction, I was assigned as project engineer of all the I-74 contracts from the Illinois River east to Carlock, a distance of about 30 miles. Bob Schmidt finished the bridge and was transferred to the Central IDOT offices in Springfield. Eventually, he was promoted to the State Highway Construction Engineer position.

Steel bridge members were held together with plates and rivets during this early interstate construction, but within 10 years, high tensile strength bolts replaced most hot riveting procedures. The riveting gangs on our projects did not like to work within a protected area because the steel members had a prime coat of leaded paint that would burn when hot rivets were being bucked-up and toxic fumes would create a hazardous work environment. The riveters would always get a smile on their face when I came by to inspect their rivets because I used a small ball peen hammer. I’d tap the rivet to the right, place a finger lightly against that spot, and then hit the opposite side of the rivet to the left. If I felt a small movement, the rivet would get a red crayon mark that indicated “Remove and Replace.”

The roadway design and plans were prepared at the District offices. In District Four, our main designer was Ray Ackerman, who was eventually promoted and transferred to the main highway offices in Springfield during the late 1950’s. He designed a left exiting ramp to a connecting highway to the right at Knoxville Avenue and I-74 in Peoria. A current rehabilitation project of I-74 in Peoria will eliminate this unusual maneuver in 2006 because ample right-of-way has been obtained to provide a right turn exit ramp.

COAL MINES AND OTHER THINGS NOT ON THE PLANS: When new highways are constructed in rural areas, events can occur that were not anticipated nor shown on the plans. One such event resulted from the removal of the Fondulac Hill in East Peoria when soil was needed to construct the I-74 roadway between the Illinois River Bridge and back easterly to Fondulac hill and Main Street (Illinois Route 116) in East Peoria, a distance of about 1 mile. When the plan grade was achieved in the Hill area and the gravel base was being compacted, the gravel would sink into the ground due to the vibrations. After discussing the situation with local citizens who were retired and enjoyed observing the construction, they informed us that there were coal seams in the Hill that they and others mined for free during hard times going back to the WW I era.

There were no recorded maps of the coal mine tunnels, which our local advisors said were random. Our solution was lots of sand and water. We washed the sand into the mined coal caves until the sand quit disappearing. There has been no sinking or break-up of the I-74 pavement in this area during the past 60 years. PHOTO: Erecting center span, Fondulac grade separation bridge, Tazewell County, Illinois, 8/5/1958. IDOT Aerial Surveys Section Art Kisler Collection Photo 14573.

This past summer (2005), during the construction of an additional ramp along the south side of I-74 and under the Fondulac Bridge, workers dug into more coal seams of approximately 1 foot or less in thickness.

Another unplanned extra involved farmland drainage tiles randomly located most of the distance from East Peoria to Carlock, but especially in the Morton area. The old farm tiles, often installed by the farmer themselves or relatives 50 or more years ago, were made of clay that would crush if laying within 36” of the ground surface where heavy construction equipment operated.

We finally developed a system of locating these tiles, which would be replaced with at least 6” concrete pipes under the interstate roads. First, the adjoining property owner was requested for known tile locations; then we learned to witch in low areas crossing the highway right-of-way; and finally the contractor would be paid and excavate a narrow trench within the likely tile location areas. PHOTO: Interchange under construction, I-74, Tazewell County, Illinois, 6/4/1959. IDOT Aerial Surveys Section Art Kisler Collection Photo 14715.

 

An extra set of contract plans was always kept and marked “Office Copy” to mark “as built” notations and extra work completed. This copy came in handy a few years later when I was District Maintenance Engineer and farmers came into the office complaining that their farm tile was not draining properly because their field had wet areas. We could find the effected area on the plan, go into the field and excavate at each side of the right-of-way, open up the tile, and run water from the high side to the low side to prove to the farmers that the poor drainage was not within the highway right-of-way. But this was not always true. After the interstate was constructed and open to traffic, usually 3 to 5 years later a landscaping contract would be awarded to plant trees and shrubs. Some of these plantings would unknowingly be planted over old farm tile located within the unused loop area of interchanges, which were the only areas we did not explore to find and replace the old tile. Our District maintenance crews, with assistance from the distraught farmer, usually found and corrected the problem. In some cases, it involved merely removing a tree because its growing root system was entering in gaps between tiles.

Another unusual construction problem occurred because of earth creep to the right and left in a 70-foot deep ravine fill over an 8’ x 8’ reinforced concrete box culvert. As I remember it, the 6” thick concrete walls cracked and the horizontal steel elongated to allow some cracks to open about an inch. The contractor was then limited on the depth of earth placed each day over the culvert, and the cracks were monitored daily to ensure that the earth creep and resulting elongation of the culvert had stopped. After the earth fill was complete, the cracks were grouted. A few years later, I walked through this 300-foot ± tunnel a couple of times during dry conditions and was glad to find no problems.

A second event connected with the excavation of the Fondulac Hill luckily involved the slow process of shaving off a thin layer of topsoil for future use over the cut slope faces. On top of the Hill, a grave site (at least 2 persons) was uncovered, which we suspected were Indian or early settlers. The State Museum in Springfield was notified and requested to send someone to inspect the burial remains and the contractor was instructed to work around the site. By the time the museum representative arrived (at least 4 or 5 days later), the Springfield inspector needed a 6-foot ladder to climb to the top of the chimney like mound to inspect and gather the artifacts. I never received an official report from the museum concerning their findings. In later years, such sites could stop highway projects or at least delay them.

This particular earth contract was by S. J. Groves out of Minneapolis and their superintendent was Doc Sheldon. They brought their big green machines (Euclids) down into the front yard of the yellow Caterpillar. Doc worked those Euclids in two 8-hour shifts with the remaining 8 hours of the day used for servicing and repair of the equipment. He would always get grumpy on rainy days when the machines sat idle and would look for someone to play cribbage with him. Doc was good, serious, and mean in his second passion - cribbage. Before Groves’ earth contracts in the Peoria area were completed, Doc died from a heart ailment, and we buried him at the Illinois River town of Beardstown.

The first I-74 roadway completed and open for public use in District Four was celebrated on a very cold day in December, 1958 between Peoria and east to Main Street (Illinois Route 116) in East Peoria. While less than 2 miles long, it was a great relief for motorists who had been using the old Franklin Street Lift Bridge that was always unpredictable due to barge movements on the Illinois River. Governor Stratton was in attendance to cut the ribbon and officials from both towns also attended. Everyone planned on walking across the bridge, but the cold and wind changed their minds after a good start and they finished crossing in heated cars, except the Color Guard. They marched across as duty demands. I still have my old 8mm camera films showing the event.

There were numerous complicated contracts in the East Peoria area because of railroads, sewers, waterlines, creeks, and many streets and roads that prevented fast highway construction. We worked our way out of East Peoria and the Illinois River Valley and up the hill toward Morton. By 1962, a second ribbon cutting was scheduled; the first half at East Peoria, with a car ride to Morton for the second half. Governor Kerner was in attendance and we had a luncheon at the Pere Marquette Hotel in Peoria.

EISENHOWER AND HISTORY: President Eisenhower came along at the right time in American history to provide the idea and inspiration for the interstate highway system, which has really tied our nation together. It is now easy to think of people living 2000 miles apart as just being neighbors. I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the history making process and the many wonderful, scenic rides during my retirement.

Mr. Henry C. Bankie, Jr. graduated from Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois in 1952 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering. He began work with the Illinois Division of Highways on a part-time basis before his graduation and thereafter served 35 years with the Division of Highways and its successor, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). From 1968 until his retirement in 1987, Mr. Bankie was the IDOT District Four Maintenance Engineer. He lives in Peoria, Illinois.  Return to Top

The Long Road to the Interstates of Illinois
By Tom McAvoy

When Illinois began its first major road improvement programs during the 1920s, there were between 500,000 and 1,600,000 vehicles in the state. That number exploded to 3.2 million in the mid-1950s. Today, there are roughly 3 times as many vehicles in Illinois (9.4 million) as was the case in 1955, the year before the interstate highway system was established.

It is difficult to imagine how these huge increases could be accommodated without the interstate highway system which is connected to the intricate network of state and local roads in place today in Illinois.

This section will present an admittedly abbreviated history of how federal, state and local governments in the Land of Lincoln created the network of roads and interstate highways that serve Illinois residents, its visitors and its economy.

POLITICS ALONG THE ROAD TO THE INTERSTATES OF ILLINOIS

“The highways of America are built chiefly of politics, whereas the proper material is crushed rock or concrete.”

- Carl G. Fisher
One of the Founders of the Lincoln Highway Association

The story of how Illinois moved from dirt roads to the interstate highways of today would be incomplete and impossible to understand without entering the realm of Illinois politics. Politics, it has been said, is about “who decides who gets what.” It might be added, as the follow up to that statement, that politics also means “deciding who pays for the ‘what.’”

Road policy was and is no exception. From the early 1900s on, decisions on what roads to build where and how to pay for them has been a contentious issue in Illinois. Illinois Governors from 1900 until today have wrestled with the Illinois General Assembly, federal, county and local governments as well as citizens and various interest groups over roads. Rural and urban interests in roads have always been in competition for limited funds. Furthermore, over most of the last century, Illinois had a fiercely competitive two-party system. While Republicans and Democrats dominated certain areas of the state, rarely did either party completely dominate the state government. Often Governors faced legislatures where the opposite party controlled either the House of Representatives or the State Senate, or both.

The competitive, contentious nature of decisions about roads led (on more than one occasion) to periods of indecision or policy “gridlock.” Periods of economic strife and war often meant scarce funding for any road programs or policies, no matter how ambitious or controversial. Eventually, road problems would reach a crisis point. Then, usually, a change of administration or attitudes would break the logjam and lead to a compromise or consensus that would bring forth new highway policies and programs. The story of Illinois’ journey into the Interstate Era (below) will recount some of the events, trends, politics and key political figures involved along the way.

EARLY ILLINOIS ROADS AND HIGHWAYS

Despite a growing demand for paved roads, most Illinois roads in 1920 were still little more than dirt paths outside of larger urban areas. Less than 1,000 miles of roads had been paved even though almost 87 million dollars was available from federal sources and a statewide bond issue passed by Illinois voters in 1918. PHOTO: Typical Illinois unpaved road of the early 20th Century, location / date unknown. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Audio Visual Department Photo.

Some of the blame for the lack of progress was the result of post-World War I shortages of concrete, but politics and shifting political alliances also played a role. Nevertheless, during 1919 and 1920, a lot of preliminary work in surveying, grading and bridge construction was undertaken.

On January 10, 1921, Len Small, a Republican and a former State Treasurer from Kankakee took office as Governor of Illinois. Small was a career politician and one not regarded as a “reformer” in classical good government terms or reform circles.

One thing the new Governor knew for certain was that the surest and fastest way to win the voters’ hearts was by paving their roads. He also saw road building projects as a way to influence state legislators and other local officials. When legislators and local officials chose to side against Len Small, delays in road projects in their areas seemed to “just happen.” Given the groundwork laid by the previous administration, Small was able to launch an aggressive and fast-paced road-building program. PHOTO: “Boost Logan County Hard Roads” display featuring “Good Roads Governor” Len Small, Illinois Public Utility Company Window, Lincoln, Illinois, 10/17/1927. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Audio Visual Department Photo.

 

Small and his supporters were not shy about taking credit for the new “hard roads.” One of his campaign buttons featured his portrait and only five words… Len Small Good Roads Governor.” His supporters even put his praises to music in the following song of the 1920s:

There’s Goin’ to Be Some Speedin’
If You Don’t Watch Out

If you’re goin’ to the country,
To spend your Sunday there,
Just get your old tin Lizzie out,
And start it up with care,
For there’s going to be a hard road
From your house down to the farm;
You can drive along this highway
Without a fear of harm,
For Len Small has built these good roads,
Without a tax to man,
He has made them even faster
Than any state in this great land;
Then keep your wits about you
And be sure what you’re about,
For there’s goin’ to be some speedin’
If you don’t watch out.
And when the dinner’s over,
On this good Sabbath day,
And the place is lookin’ cheerful,
And the folks are feelin’ gay,
From afar there comes the rumble,
Of the thunder all around,
And the rain that falls in torrents,
Soaks the ground for miles around,
But you needn’t fret and worry,
‘Bout your trip back to your home,
For the roads are wide a-plenty,
In the mud you need not roam.
Then hold your head up higher,
Keep your eye on things about,
For you’re bound to do some speedin’
If you don’t watch out.

(Lyrics courtesy of the Len Small Collection, Manuscript Department, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, Illinois)

By the end of Len Small’s second term in 1929, Illinois had indeed become one of the most paved states in the country with some 7,000 miles of paved roads. Be that as it may, it wasn’t enough for Small to buck Illinois voters’ tradition of limiting Governors to two terms in office. Small was defeated for re-election in the 1928 Republican Primary by Louis Emmerson, who went on to serve as Governor from 1929 to 1933.

The Illinois road building program under Emmerson and his successor, Democratic Governor Henry Horner (1933-1940) suffered from the effects of the Great Depression and Illinois government’s dire financial condition. In fact, in 1934, Horner was forced to divert motor fuel taxes to pay Illinois teachers. Many times during the period Illinois had to forgo available federal funds since it could not match them with State dollars.

The Depression and World War Two years severely limited road-building projects. Nevertheless, others, particularly in the Chicago area, were planning for a future system of “superhighways.”

ILLINOIS’ EARLY SUPERHIGHWAY PLANNING

In the late 1930s and up until the U. S. entry into World War Two in 1941, the motoring public and highway officials across the country were fantasizing about the concept of high speed, limited access “superhighways.” Illinois was no exception, but the focus of superhighway planning efforts was in the Chicagoland area.

By 1939, Cook County and the City of Chicago had agreed upon a plan for a system of superhighways that includes many parts of the current day area interstate highway network. That same year, the Illinois legislature, perhaps only too grateful for the willingness of the County and the City to undertake the superhighway program, authorized the two governments to finance the construction of the system by borrowing up to $60 million dollars to do so. The momentum was cut short in March of 1941, when the Illinois Supreme Court declared the legislature-approved bonding program unconstitutional. Later that year, Chicago voters rejected a City bond issue referendum to fund its share of the program. Chicago officials appealed to newly elected Republican Governor Dwight H. Green for help. Green was sympathetic, but had neither the money nor the inclination or political clout to force the rural-dominated Legislature to pay for new roads in Chicago when many downstate roads hadn’t been improved since the days of Len Small.

As World War Two intervened in late 1941, Chicago area superhighway planning efforts were fairly advanced, but construction had yet to start. The war years postponed almost all new highway projects except those with military import, but the planning efforts continued.

INITIAL SUPERHIGHWAY EFFORTS AND MORE FUNDS FOR ROADS

By the end of the war, increasing traffic was pounding the 1920s roads, built by Len Small some twenty-five years earlier, into terrible shape. That, the end of the war, and increasing congestion resurrected road building plans, in general, and specifically those for the “superhighways.”

January, 1949 brought in a new Governor, Adlai E. Stevenson, a Democrat, who had defeated incumbent Republican Governor Dwight Green the preceding November. While Stevenson and his new Director of Public Works and Buildings, Charles Casey, were well aware of the sad shape of Illinois’ roads, there was little money available to do anything about them. While a majority of the states had passed increases in motor fuel taxes to fund new roads between the end of the war and 1950, Illinois was not one of them. In fact, along with two other states, it had the lowest state fuel tax (2 cents) in the country. In 1950, the state had only $30 million dollars on hand to build highways. Illinois was in a position to lose federal funding for roads starting in 1953 because it lacked state matching funds.

Meanwhile, the Cook County Highway Department had been forging ahead with planning and designing a system of six superhighways, roughly along the outline originally prepared in 1939-40. With limited state and federal support, the pace was slow. However, the first two segments of the system were opened to traffic on November 1, 1950. These were 1) a 3.47 mile stretch of the “Kingery Parkway,” now the Kingery Expressway (I-80 / I-94) from the Indiana Line west to the “Calumet Parkway,” now the Bishop Ford Expressway (I-94); and 2) a 3.01 mile stretch of the Calumet Parkway (now Bishop Ford / I-94) from the Kingery Expressway north to Sibley Boulevard. The following year saw the extension of the Calumet north to 130th Street and the opening of the first 12.25 mile section of the “Edens Superhighway” (now I-94) from Balmoral Avenue to the Lake-Cook County line. To assist with completion of the Cook County expressway system, the county passed a $70 million bond issue of its own in 1950.

The Illinois state road program received a big boost in the spring of 1951, when the Republican majorities in the Illinois House and Senate cooperated with minority Democrats to pass Governor Stevenson’s proposal to gradually double the state motor fuel tax and increase truck fees. In 1951, $44 million dollars in road building contracts were let in Illinois. That amount was the largest amount spent in the State since 1928. The State began planning to spend $100 million per year for highways, a vast increase over all previous road programs.

Like many Governors before and since, Stevenson would not be in office to see the fruits of his hard fought battle to increase highway funding. In 1952, he decided not to run for re-election as Governor, and instead, ran for President against the Republican nominee, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

TOLLWAYS AND THE ILLINOIS INTERSTATE ERA BEGINS IN EARNEST

The 1952 election saw Eisenhower swamp Governor Stevenson in a huge landslide. Back in Illinois, Republicans swept every state office and built up huge majorities in both legislative chambers. Heading the victorious State GOP ticket was Gubernatorial Candidate William G. Stratton, the “boy wonder of Illinois politics.” Stratton was 38 years old and thus the youngest Governor in 70 years. He was not a political novice despite his relative youth. Stratton, of Morris in Grundy County, had first been elected to public office in 1940 when he took a seat as the youngest member of the United States House of Representatives at the age of 26. Two years later, he was elected State Treasurer. He left to join the military in 1944; returned to serve again in Congress in 1946; and was again elected Treasurer in 1950.

Stratton benefited greatly from the new revenues and planning done by Stevenson’s administration. Yet, in his inaugural address in 1953, he pledged an even more aggressive road-building program. A key element in his not-so-long range plan was legislation creating an Illinois Toll Highway Commission and empowering it to borrow up to $400 million in bonds to build an extensive toll road network in Chicago metropolitan area and connect it with other superhighways in or leading into Chicago, Wisconsin and Indiana. The 187-mile tollway system (widely known as the “Tri-State Tollway” for its interstate connections) was to be built on a fast track, starting in 1956 with plans to open to traffic in late 1958. The massive job was completed on time with the last 5-mile long segment from I-80 to I-94 dedicated on December 23, 1958.

The tollway construction program was not the first of Stratton’s “fast track” projects. In 1953, at his inaugural, he proposed expanding U. S. Route 66 to four lanes across the state. He added that he definitely wanted to see U. S. Route 66 widened to four lanes from Lincoln to Springfield in time for the August, 1953 Illinois State Fair (in Springfield.) When the Chief State Highway Engineer proclaimed the project impossible, Stratton told him that if he could not get it done, he would find someone who would. The four lanes were ready in October, 1953 (a tad late for the fair) under a new Chief Engineer.

Infused with federal Interstate highway funds after the passage of the 1956 Federal Highway Act, Cook County’s and Illinois’s “head start” on superhighways went into high gear in the late 1950s. In late 1960, after nearly 20 years in the making, the Congress Street Expressway (now I-290 or the Eisenhower Expressway) was finally completed. Substantial progress was also made on interstate highways “downstate” (or, Illinois outside of the Chicago Metropolitan Area.) PHOTOS: Left: Erecting center span, Fondulac grade separation bridge, Tazewell County, Illinois, 8/5/1958. IDOT Aerial Surveys Section, Art Kisler Collection Photo 14573. Right: I-74 Murray Baker Bridge over the Illinois River, Peoria, under construction, circa 1958. Oblique Photo Collection, IDOT Aerial Surveys Section.

During Stratton’s two terms as Governor (1953-1961) Illinois put nearly $1.7 billion dollars into its road construction program. That eight-year amount was nearly double that of the $851 spent during the previous 40 years (1913 to 1952.)

COMPLETING AND SUPPLEMENTING THE INITIAL INTERSTATE SYSTEM

Despite his road-building prowess, Stratton was unable to break the Illinois voter’s informal tradition of limiting their Governors to two terms. He was soundly defeated in November of 1960 by Chicago Democrat Otto Kerner. During Kerner’s two administrations (1961-1968), much of the originally planned Chicago Expressway system was completed and opened to traffic. PHOTOS: Right: Northwest Expressway (I-90, later the John F. Kennedy Expressway) Cumberland Avenue Interchange, Chicago, Illinois, 1961. Oblique Photo Collection, IDOT Aerial Surveys Section. Left: Aerial View of I-290 / I-90/94 / Congress Parkway Interchange, West of Downtown Chicago, date unknown. Oblique Photo Collection, IDOT Aerial Surveys Section.

Significant strides were also made in completing the downstate interstate network. Interstate 80, also known as the “Moline Expressway,” across the State from Iowa to Indiana was completed in 1967. I-70. from St. Louis to Indiana and I-55, which runs from St. Louis to Chicago were complete save for a few gaps. PHOTOS: Left: Interstate 57 temporary connection with Perks Road, Southeast of Dongola, Union-Pulaski Counties, Illinois, 9/25/62. IDOT Aerial Surveys Section. Art Kisler Collection Photo 16124. Right: Bridge carrying Interstate 55 over U. S. Route 150 and railroad line, 1 mile Northwest of Bloomington, McLean County, Illinois, 10/17/1963. IDOT Aerial Surveys Section Art Kisler Collection Photo A-2064.

Five governors followed Kerner into the Executive Mansion between 1968 and 1999. These five were: Samuel Shapiro (D, 1968-69); Richard Ogilvie (R, 1969-73); Daniel Walker (D, 1973-77); James R. Thompson (R, 1976-90); and Jim Edgar (R, 1991-99). They presided over the substantial completion of the original Illinois interstate highway system as well as a few additions to the network and abandonment of plans for certain others.

The early 1970s saw I-290 extended from Elmhurst to Schaumburg to link with I-90, the Northwest Tollway. I-88, the East-West Tollway (now the Ronald Reagan Memorial Highway) was extended west to Rock Falls from Aurora in 1976. I-57 from Chicago to Cairo neared completion by the end the decade.

One planned part of the original Chicago expressway system was abandoned in the late 70s. The subject of intense community opposition and environmental challenges, the “Crosstown” Expressway (which was to be designated I-494) was to run from I-90/94 (Kennedy Expressway) south and west along railroad rights of way to join the Dan Ryan Expressway I-94) near 75th Street. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley was the Crosstown’s primary booster. After his death in 1976, plans for the Crosstown were dropped and traded for funding of other transit and road projects.

The 1980s witnessed completion of most of the original downstate interstate system plus some new segments. Notable among the new interstates were I-39 and I-355. I-355, the North-South Tollway connecting I-290 to I-55 through DuPage County was opened in late 1989. I-39, running from Rockford to Bloomington down the center of Illinois, was nearing completion by the end of the decade (and was finished in 1992.) The late 1980s and 1990s saw a few new additions to the Illinois Interstate System; and one significant abandonment. A proposal for a Fox Valley Freeway connecting I-90 to I-80 along a corridor running through Kane, Kendall and Will Counties, which was first proposed in 1969, was abandoned in the face of community opposition in 1993. (PLUMMER)

RECENT TRENDS / FOCUS: REHABILITATION AND MODERNIZATION

As the table above demonstrates, the traffic volumes carried by Illinois Interstates has increased dramatically over the past four decades. Heavier trucks and higher truck traffic volumes combined with the advanced age of some system segments led, in the 1980s and the 1990s, to a shift in focus of Illinois toward its interstate highway network. The focus changed from building new interstates toward rehabilitating some of the older, more heavily traveled, deteriorated parts of the system and improving the efficiency and safety of other segments. This trend, which began under the administration of Governor Thompson has continued until today under his three successors: Jim Edgar (R, 1991-99); George H. Ryan (1999-2003); and Rod R. Blagojevich (D, 2003-present).

The Edens Expressway (I-94) was rehabilitated in 1980 under Thompson and was one the first major interstate rehabilitation efforts. The section of the Dan Ryan Expressway (I-90/94) south of Chicago’s downtown was rebuilt during 1988 and 1989. PHOTO: Aerial view of the massive Dan Ryan Bridge Reconstruction Project of 1988-89. Courtesy of IDOT Emergency Traffic Patrol Program Office, Chicago.

Under Edgar, the mid-1990s also saw the reconstruction of the Kennedy Expressway (I-90-94) from Chicago’s downtown to the City’s Northwest Side. Meanwhile, during the 1990s, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority embarked upon an automated toll collection system called I-PASS to improve traffic flow and toll collection efficiency. Under this system, toll road motorists were invited to purchase electronic transponders to keep in their vehicles and deposit money for credits against future tolls deducted as the vehicles passed through special I-PASS toll booth lanes at toll plazas.

Instead of stopping to toss coins in toll collection boxes or paying toll booth attendants, the I-PASS transponders would automatically deduct tolls from user accounts as the vehicle passed through the dedicated I-PASS lanes at slower speeds without actually coming to a complete halt. This program helped ease the frequent traffic bottlenecks occurring at toll plazas during peak periods when often miles of vehicles would back up in traffic waiting for their turn to stop at a toll booth.

Improving traffic flow at one particular “choke point” was one of the principal interstate projects initiated by Governor George H. Ryan upon his taking office in 1999. In a move reminiscent of Governor Stratton’s 1953 pledge to make Route 66 a four-lane road from Lincoln to Springfield, Ryan pledge to fix the “Hillside Strangler” during his first term in office. The “Strangler,” located near the village of Hillside near the Cook County – DuPage County border, was where 80,000 drivers per day endured massive traffic jams as a result of the convergence of Interstates I-88, I-290 and I-294 and Illinois Route 38. Aggravating the congestion was the nearby interchange of I-290 at U. S. Route 12/20/45, or Mannheim Road. Unsnarling the “Strangler” became a top priority of the Illinois Department of Transportation during Ryan’s tenure. The “fast track” programming, design and construction of the Hillside Strangler project resulted in its completion in less than three years. Normally a project of that scope could be expected to take four to six years or more. The Strangler fix was one element of “Illinois First,” a multi-billion dollar infrastructure improvement program advanced by Ryan and approved by the General Assembly in 1999 along with unpopular increases in license plate fees and liquor taxes to pay for the program. The Stevenson Expressway (I-55) was the subject of a massive two-year “makeover” during 1999-2000. Among other projects advanced toward the final stages of design during Ryan’s term were the reconstruction of the Dan Ryan Expressway (I-90/94) in Chicago and one of the oldest segments of the Interstate System in Illinois, the I-80/94 Kingery Expressway between I-94 and the Indiana State Line, first opened to traffic on November 1, 1950.

Ryan chose not to seek re-election in 2002 and was succeeded by Rod R. Blagojevich, a Democrat from Chicago, who is the current Governor of Illinois. Blagojevich’s administration has continued the rehabilitation trend with the current reconstruction of the Ryan and Kingery expressways. Planning for reconstruction of the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) from U.S. 12/20/45 (Mannheim Road) to Illinois 50 (Cicero Avenue) is underway.

In addition, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority approved a comprehensive, long-range plan for rebuilding and improving traffic flow along the tollway interstates in northern and northeastern Illinois. The plan, “Open Roads for a Faster Future” calls for one of the first new interstate highway extensions with the planned (2007) completion of a 12-mile extension of Interstate 355 (the North-South Tollway) from I-55 in Bolingbrook to I-80 near New Lenox. It also includes adding lanes on over 117 miles of the tollways and rebuilding of much of the original system.

Already underway is one element of the program, a dramatic expansion of the I-PASS program of automated toll collections by expanding the number of I-PASS lanes where vehicles can bypass toll plazas completely at normal traffic speeds. Truck tolls were increased to help fund the tollway plan and to encourage more I-PASS usage by passenger vehicles, tolls for cash-paying smaller vehicles were increased while I-PASS users’ fees remained the same. PHOTO: “Open Road Tolling” lanes and overhead toll collection equipment, I-294 Tri-State Tollway at Irving Park Road Toll Plaza. Courtesy of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority.

Tom McAvoy is Chair of the Research and Website Subcommittee of the Illinois 50th Interstate Anniversary Committee. He is the Interim Data Systems Sub-Unit Manager, Transportation Data Bank, Bureau of Programming, IDOT Region One / District One. Mr. McAvoy would like to acknowledge the benefit of the research and insights provided by Mr. Andy Plummer, including those from his initial draft of the first three chapters of a comprehensive account of the history of Illinois roads and the Chicago Area Transportation Study or CATS. Mr. Plummer served with CATS for 32 years and retired in 1999 after serving as CATS Associate Executive Director from 1991-99. Mr. Plummer recently launched a new website telling the story of how the Cook County expressways were designed and built. It is www.cookexpressways.com.

There at the beginning … the IDOT “Minutemen”
By Mike Hartigan

Someone once said, “Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan.” The Expressway Traffic Patrol is indeed a success, and it definitely had multiple sires. The following is my best recollection of the birth and subsequent early growth of the Patrol. PHOTO: IDOT Emergency Traffic Patrol “Minuteman” assisting Motorist. Illinois Department of Transportation Slide Collection.

In the fall of 1960, just before the November Presidential election, the last piece of the Congress Expressway (I-29, later renamed the Eisenhower Expressway) was almost completed. Since there was an election upcoming, the political decision was made to open the Expressway, even if the shoulders were not in place (the most serious omission) and other, less critical work was left to be done. The worst section was in the vicinity of Harlem Avenue. The drop-off at the edge of pavement into the shoulder area was at least 8 inches.

About a week before the scheduled opening date, “Ziggy” Ziejewski, (later IDOT Regional Engineer for Northeast Illinois), who was the State’s construction supervisor on that section of the Eisenhower, called me and suggested that I institute some type of traffic safety patrol during the period when the shoulder was unusable. This patrol would assure that all barricades, signs and warning devices were in place and could assist police by pushing a stalled vehicle from the roadway or protecting the scene until a private tow operator could relocate the vehicle(s).

I don’t know if it was in Zig’s mind when he called me, but I remembered that the City of Chicago during a recently concluded major rehabilitation of Lake Shore Drive had employed a number of pick-up trucks to assist motorists whose vehicles became disabled. I called Bob Zralek (Later, Vice President of Waste Management and Rear Admiral, USNR) at Chicago’s Bureau of Street Traffic, who had been in charge of that operation to learn of his experience. From that conversation, I recall that he said it had been very successful, but to be sure that any service vehicle have a tank of compressed air. Some flat tires could be temporarily inflated enough to drive to an exit ramp, but more importantly, it seemed to Bob that about half of all spare tires were without air! (It should be noted that the Chicago Park District had originally used a number of small trucks to manually assist in reversing the through lanes on Lake Shore Drive and it is my understanding they would also try to assist stranded motorists and the police at accident sites. When the City assumed responsibility for Lake Shore Drive, the Bureau of Street Traffic continued this operation. The expanded use and responsibilities of that operation were almost a natural antecedent during the rehabilitation of the Drive.)rive.)

I went to Roger Nusbaum (Subsequently IDOT’s Assistant Chief Engineer), Expressway Engineer for the Chicago District of the Illinois Division of Highways to propose a limited patrol of the incomplete section (roughly Central Ave. To 1st Ave.) as Ziggy had suggested. The initial proposal included getting at least one panel truck (borrowed from John Murphy’s Expressway Maintenance Section) and equipping it with radio telephones (the State’s two-way radio system was not yet in service), barricades, fuses (flares), and as Zralek had recommended, a tank of compressed air. I don’t remember what other equipment was included, but I’m sure that gasoline was not. The truck itself was to be modified with additional flashing red and yellow warning lights and a “push” front bumper.

Roger approved the proposal (I assume with J.P. Tuthill’s approval, since he was the District Engineer) and subsequently had Marshall Suloway (who later became IDOT District Engineer and later yet the Chicago Commissioner of Public Works), his assistant, select about a dozen younger engineers and technicians to be interviewed for assignment to this duty. Three of those selected were from the Expressway Traffic Section so I knew them well, Cliff Scherer, George Khoury, and Ahmed Salem. I seem to remember another six or so men were ultimately employed but don’t recall their names.

The “Patrol” commenced about mid-October of 1960. My memory has it that the “Patrol” was active only from 4:00pm to 8:00am on weekdays and throughout the entire day on weekends. One vivid recollection is that in the first few weeks of operation the entire supply of flares was exhausted in the Expressway Division as well as in the District. Flares had to be “borrowed” from other Districts and the central office in Springfield until an emergency purchase order could be filled.

At the beginning of the operation or shortly thereafter, Cliff Scherer suggested that, at each assist, the patrol driver would give the motorist a preprinted, pre-addressed, pre-paid postcard that briefly described the service (absolutely no gratuity to be accepted) and asked for comments. Not only were they totally positive responses, but the return rate was about 90%! The District Engineer, J.P. Tuthill, to whom the cards were addressed, was amazed. In his tenure as District Engineer (about 10 years), he recalled receiving perhaps half a dozen complimentary letters or notes regarding State Highway work or workers. Now he was getting about 100 each week! The State Police were also positive in their reaction to the Patrol because it gave them assistance when it was most needed and relieved them of non-police obligations.

Charlie McLean (my assistant and with whom I had previously worked at Chicago’s Bureau of Street Traffic) and I both realized early on that this concept should be continued and expanded as the Expressway system came to fruition. Utilizing Cliff Scherer’s hands-on experience, we put together a total package of what would be needed, including personnel, training, vehicle type, equipment, and services to be offered. We also recommended a frequency of patrol and outlined possible coordination with the Chicago and State Police, CTA, Chicago Bureau of Street Traffic, Cook County Highway Department and others, together with a reasonably detailed budget plan.

Sometime in the early spring of 1961 we got the go-ahead from Roger Nusbaum and J.P.Tuthill to prepare a presentation to the Central Office in Springfield to inaugurate an Expressway Traffic Patrol. Roger, ”Tut, and I met in Springfield with Ralph Bartelsmeyer, Chief Engineer, Harry Harrison, Engineer of Traffic, Engineer of Maintenance Henry Diers and others including, I believe Ted Morf and Ralph Brown, who were assistants to the Chief Engineer and Charles Corcoran, Assistant Engineer of Traffic, who would eventually be charged with finding the funds for the proposal. Our total monetary request was for approximately $1.5 million. With but only a few comments and questions, Mr. Bartelsmeyer said OK – get going. (Henry Diers had objected to the service as an inappropriate function for a public highway agency. I don’t recall that he made that argument during our meeting but Roger was apparently aware of it based on his conversations with Mr. Bartelsmeyer and possibly Mr. Harrison.) As the meeting was concluding, I attempted to add a few more selling points but Roger gave me a kick under the table and in a whisper to me said something to the effect, “ shut up – quit while you’re ahead”.

We were all feeling very satisfied as we left. Getting $1.5 million for a new service concept was a real feat in those days. (The Illinois Division of Highways, as it was known then, was very construction oriented throughout the fifties and into the mid-sixties, which could account for Mr. Diers’ objection.)

As we got into “Tut’s” car to return, Roger said quietly to me that when we were about an hour out of Springfield to ask him about having dinner. He said if we leave it to “Tut” we’ll end up in some greasy spoon that he remembers from the 1930s when U. S. 66 was under construction. So I fell asleep, as was my usual wont when someone else was driving and woke up to hear Tuthill say he knew of a good place to eat in Pontiac. About the same time I got a chop on the back of my neck from Roger sitting in the backseat. I figured if I survived Roger’s kicks and chops I could survive “Tut’s” greasy spoon. As it turned out we ate at a very nice place. As we were leaving Roger said quietly to me, ”this is your lucky day.” He was right, for everything that happened that day.

And then the real challenge began …putting it all together. Charlie McLean and I concentrated on personnel, including the selection and interview processes. Cliff Scherer concentrated on vehicle design and equipment, as well as a training program including first aid and CPR, fire suppression, and assistance to police at accident scenes. Charlie, Cliff and I pushed for a civil service classification for the Patrol. It was Cliff’s contention that if some driver’s political sponsor died on Friday we shouldn’t have to “vice” (fire) him on Monday. But our efforts were to no avail. We had to use the patronage system. We were able to reject a candidate (with one or two exceptions) but final appointment was strictly political. The resulting personnel were generally (and surprisingly, to us) good. In fact one of those we sought to reject because of his less than stellar work record in the District Maintenance section turned out to be one of the Patrol’s heroes.

One of the more controversial services to be provided was gasoline. (Perhaps this was part of Mr. Diers’ objection.) It was finally decided that 2 ½ gallons would be furnished to a stranded motorist together with an envelope requesting the remittance of $2.50. Providing gasoline was controversial for several reasons, not the least of which was asking for remuneration. As it turned out there was an almost 90% response rate and occasionally a larger check was found in the return envelope.

As part of equipment design, Cliff Scherer developed a telescopic towing boom for the first fleet of vehicles that was so unique and effective it was retrofitted for the next 10 to 15 years on all new vehicles. He was also responsible for developing an initial maintenance schedule that eventually included “short blocks” for engine repair at about every 100,000 miles, thus extending the useful life of the vehicle.

For training, we obtained excellent assistance from Captains Edward Dvorak and Robert Georgantas of the State Police, Deputy Superintendent Max Steinhauser of the Chicago Police Department, Arthur Conrad of the Driver Training section of Chicago’s Municipal Court system, John Murphy the Expressway Maintenance Engineer and Dick Stark, the Expressway Electrical Engineer, who was in charge of the District’s Communications Center, which had now been fully implemented with 2-way mobile radio capability.

We began with some 8 or 10 utility body trucks and some 30 or 40 drivers. (Following Chief Steinhauser’s rule of thumb for five men for each on-road vehicle to allow for days off, sickness, etc.) A headquarters building was provided at Des Plaines Avenue and Van Buren Street which was the former landscape contractor’s field office for the Eisenhower and Kennedy Expressways. It had room for parking all of the Patrol vehicles, as well as most employees’ cars. PHOTOS: LEFT: Department of Public Works and Buildings Director Francis G. Lorenz (center in suit) with early Minutemen crewmen and light trucks. Courtesy of IDOT Emergency Traffic Patrol Program Office, Chicago. RIGHT: An early group photo of personnel involved in the Emergency Traffic Patrol. Courtesy of IDOT Emergency Traffic Patrol Program Office, Chicago.

The Patrol began actual operation in the Summer of 1961. All the drivers were uniformed and wore “badges.” The uniforms were quite natty, including a kepi style cap. They were made by Prison Industries in a fabric which resembled that of the uniforms of the State Police. It should have been apparent that such a uniform was totally unrealistic. Changing tires, clearing debris and other heavy manual duties made for badly soiled uniforms and expensive cleaning bills. It took a while, but by 1968 all drivers were outfitted in coveralls with reflective striping.

The Patrol exceeded our highest expectations. A goodly portion of the credit for this accrues to the first manager, Cliff Scherer, and the men chosen as Supervisor and Foremen. Frank Cacciato was the original Supervisor, and did a superlative job . It was he who directed the drivers on a daily basis. (The fact that he came from the 11th Ward of the City of Chicago, and often greeted Mayor Richard J. Daley at Sunday Mass didn’t hurt his status!) Sometime in 1962 or ‘63, Frank was afflicted by carbon monoxide poisoning and his duties were split with Alex Podmokly.

I don’t remember the names of the original Foremen but they were generally quite capable people. To a large extent the success of the Patrol was a because of a great “Esprit de Corps”. They had an important job, the people they assisted knew it, the police knew it and most significantly, they knew it.

As a part of maintaining that spirit, Cliff Scherer would post on the Patrol’s bulletin board letters to both the District Office and Springfield extolling the services provided so that the drivers could appreciate how important their jobs were. Many of those assisted used neither the postcard nor envelope to respond but instead wrote glowing letters describing their particular predicament and how they’d been “rescued”.

Patrol personnel were also recognized within the District. There was an Open House in the Fall of 1961 at the original headquarters, at which time the Director of Public Works and Buildings (predecessor position to the current IDOT Secretary of Transportation), William Payes, was presented with Patrol badge number one. He told the drivers, their wives and families that the Patrol was the most positive public relations operation that the Illinois Division of Highways had ever enjoyed because it helped people directly and undoubtedly saved lives in the process. They, and their families should take special pride in the unqualified success of the Patrol. Incidentally, Charlie and Liz McLean made a tasty fruit punch for the occasion. Mr. Payes thought that it must have contained alcohol because it was so tasty! (It didn’t.)

The Patrol’s relationship with other agencies was unsurpassed. Chief Steinhauser and Captain (Later Major) Georgantas were always available for counsel and assistance. In a major accident which threatened to close the Kennedy Expressway for at least ten hours, Chief Steinhauser personally came to the scene and directed clearing efforts until traffic was fully restored in less than six hours. Captain Georgantas was key in coordinating suburban Police and Fire Departments when Expressway accidents or other incidents required local assistance.

Recognizing the limited lifting and towing capabilities of the Patrol’s trucks, working relationships were essential with both private and public wreckers. For example, a printing press about as big as a 40 ft. container, once fell off a lowboy trailer at the Edens-Kennedy junction. Within less than an hour, the CTA sent a crane (capable of lifting an ‘ L.” car) to the scene to right the press and place it back on the lowboy.

The late Chicago Police Sergeant Erv Hayden, in addition to his Helicopter Traffic reports on WGN radio also emceed a traffic safety show on WGN-TV on Saturday mornings. He featured the Patrol on two of these broadcasts, showing a typical truck, its equipment, and interviewed two drivers. It was also he who was responsible for naming the Patrol, ”The Minutemen”. As he observed accidents or other traffic interferences on the expressways he said there always appeared to be a Patrol vehicle on the scene within a minute, ergo they became, “The Minutemen”!

As alluded to earlier, one of the drivers we were reluctant to accept did nothing in his first few months to dispel our doubts. One Sunday morning in December of 1962, at about 8:00 a.m., he was westbound on the Eisenhower near Central Av. when he came upon a vehicle parked on the shoulder. He found a cold and distraught young mother with an infant child huddled in the car. She explained she was driving a rental car and was on her way to O’Hare Airport to meet her husband when the motor died. The driver put the two in his truck (which, absent permission of his supervisor, was a violation of a standing rule) and attempted to start the car. After repeated failures, he asked the Communications Center to contact the rental agency. When the agency responded that they couldn’t get there for several hours, the Patrol driver left the keys in the car; notified the Communications Center of what he had done; and was about to do; and took his two passengers to O’Hare (another rule violation). All of this might have gone unnoticed, or perhaps with a written admonition because of the rules violations, but instead it became one of the Patrol’s biggest success stories. It turned out that the young mother was the daughter of a Deputy Federal Highway Administrator. I don’t think the driver got a letter from President Kennedy. but he got letters commending him for his “heroic and lifesaving” action from about every other Federal and State official. After that experience that driver was perhaps the most dedicated the Patrol had.

In October of 1962, President Kennedy was arriving at O’Hare to deliver a speech at McCormick Place that evening. (We were unaware at the time but the President was in the middle of the Cuban missile crisis.) We (Charlie McLean and I) had worked with Chief Steinhauser to provide Maintenance trucks on all overpasses to complement Chicago Police and to block all on ramps as the motorcade went by. The Patrol, together with the State Police, were to provide a phalanx of vehicles across all lanes and shoulders behind the motorcade so that no vehicle could overtake or pass the President. Other Patrol vehicles were to “sweep” the expressway ahead of the motorcade to relocate any disabled cars or trucks off the highway ASAP. Every Patrol vehicle was to be employed that day on some assignment. And the Communications Center was to have an “open line” with the Chicago Police and Fire Departments. This effort was coordinated by Dick Stark, the Expressway Electrical Engineer.

Some time the preceding evening Charlie McLean and I and possibly Dick Stark were congratulating ourselves on how well everything seemed to be falling into place. I think it was a mutual idea that we should commit these actions to paper for possible future reference. After working for a few minutes Charlie asked what we should title the plan? Charlie who was the master of the pun then suggested we call it Plan 5. When we asked how he had arrived at that designation he said we had never done such a plan before (be 4) so this plan must be 5. (His puns could be very subtle, if not confounding.) We then committed Plan 5 to paper and distributed it to every affected office. That’s why, when Director Payes went to the Communications Center and asked how things were going that afternoon, the dispatcher advised him, “we are proceeding in accordance with Plan 5". The Director asked for a copy and after perusing it said he was going to give it to the Secret Service as an example of how the Illinois Division of Highways handles a Presidential visit. Whether he ever did that we don’t know but Plan 5 became one of the Expressway Traffic Patrol’s oft repeated anecdotes.

In January of 1963 I left the Expressway Traffic section for another position in the District. Later, in December of 1964 I was transferred to the Elgin District. Charlie McLean succeeded me as Expressway Traffic Engineer, ultimately becoming Assistant District Engineer for Operations. In those positions he guided the Patrol for the next 30 years. During the early years, he was ably assisted by the first manager, Cliff Scherer. Cliff was succeeded by John Kostial, then Don Romano, and finally, Arland ”Ted” Smith. It was Charlie, together with “Ted” Smith, who brought the Patrol to a level of performance such that it was copied by many other urban highway and tollway agencies. One of Bob Kronst’s first actions upon becoming District Engineer in East St. Louis was the implementation of a Traffic Patrol on the Expressways on the Illinois side of the Mississippi opposite St .Louis. (It is my understanding that Missouri DOT soon followed his example.)

One of the Patrol’s most noteworthy achievements occurred in 1964 or 1965 when one of the slabs of the elevated section of the Ryan Expressway slipped off of its bearing and “fell” about 4 inches. This was noticed almost immediately by an emergency patrol driver, who set up barricades and notified the Communications Center of this condition. The lanes involved were closed off to traffic until a structural assessment could be made. It is George March’s opinion (who was then the Expressway Engineer and later District Engineer) that the Patrol driver’s action probably saved the structure from total collapse.

A second incident which occurred in 1973 was related to me by Carl Kowalski (District 1 Traffic Engineer and later, Cook County Superintendent of Highways). All 26 support beams slipped of their rockers and pushed the supporting pier some 18 inches out of alignment. Fast action by a Minuteman closed all northbound Ryan lanes. According to Carl, “Failure of the bridge was imminent.”

An example of the initiative that permeated not just the Patrol but management as well was evidenced when a truckload of welding rods turned over on the northbound Ryan at 5:00 am near the Skyway ramp. Within minutes it became apparent that end loaders and shovels were not going to do the job - at least not with the morning rush period beginning. Darcy Sullivan, (Assistant Expressway Traffic Engineer) whose presence at the scene is a mystery to me, had the idea to use a magnet to pick up those rods. A junkyard was nearby and using his most eloquent powers of persuasion and two State Troopers, Darcy convinced the junkyard operator to take his magnetic crane down on the Ryan and clear the roadway, which took a matter of minutes, not hours. (It is my understanding that “standby” agreements were subsequently negotiated with this operator as well as other uniquely equipped facilities throughout the City and suburbs.)

In the summer of 1967 tornadoes struck several communities in the Elgin District where I was Assistant District Engineer. Belvidere was one of those hardest hit, with multiple fatalities, extensive property damage, and several highways blocked with downed trees and damaged vehicles. The State Police had assumed command in the aftermath and asked for Highway’s assistance. We sent some Maintenance trucks to assist, but Lieutenant Tom McNamara, who was in charge said he needed tow trucks to remove/relocate all the damaged cars, buses, and trucks. I called Charlie McLean and explained the situation and he agreed to send two Patrol trucks. Those units worked all night and, according to the State Police, did a most “remarkable’ job.

The foregoing recounts just a few of the more notable activities of the Patrol of which I’m aware. A thorough review of the Patrol’s files would undoubtedly yield many, many more. It is a story waiting to be written.

It is unfortunate that it took me so long to write this narrative. Charlie McLean is gone, and so is Zig Ziejewski, Bob Kronst, J.P. Tuthill, and several others. It is written so that my family and whoever else may read this will know the origins of the Expressway Traffic Patrol, its early development, and some of its success stories - “The Minutemen”.

Michael J. Hartigan graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1950 with a B.S.C.E. degree. In 1954, he graduated from the Bureau of Highway Traffic of Yale University. He began his professional career with the Ohio Department of Highways, later moving to the Department of Public Works and the Bureau of Street Traffic of the City of Chicago. In 1956, he accepted appointment as Expressway Traffic Engineer for the Illinois Division of Highways in the then District 10 Chicago office. He was appointed Assistant District Engineer (Operations) in that office in 1962, and in 1964 was transferred to the Elgin office (District 1) also as Assistant District Engineer. When Districts 1 and 10 were consolidated in 1969 as part of the new Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), he was appointed Assistant Regional Transportation Engineer. In 1972, Hartigan left IDOT to become Chief Engineer of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority. He resigned that position in 1973 to assume the Vice- Presidency of Murphy Engineering, later known as McDonough Associates of Chicago, from which he retired in 1992. He currently resides in Oak Brook, Illinois. Return to Top

Chicago Area “Minutemen” Style Programs
Spread to East St. Louis Metro Area and Beyond
by Tom McAvoy

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Illinois Department of Transportation’s pioneering Chicago area Expressway Traffic Patrol (ETP) program has been flattered many times over as it approaches its own golden anniversary.

In 1968, an Emergency Patrol Vehicle (EPV) Program was inaugurated in the East St. Louis metropolitan area in the Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties of downstate Illinois. Covering interstates I-55, I-70, I-64, I-255 and I-270 and ranging over 200 centerline miles, the EPV Program focuses on the network of interstates carrying traffic over the busy Mississippi river bridges between Illinois and the St. Louis, Missouri metropolitan area. A breakdown or accident on any of these bridges can be a safety and traffic congestion nightmare.

A crew of 22 IDOT personnel man this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week operation. Since 1968, the EPV program has assisted over 500,000 motorists. PHOTO: IDOT EPV (Emergency Vehicle Patrol) Program Patrolmen Russell Talbott next to medium duty wrecker used in patrolling of East St. Louis area interstates and bridges. Courtesy of IDOT District Eight Emergency Vehicle Patrol Program Office, Collinsville.

One of the more interesting elements of the EPV program’s operation was the installation of hundreds of “Motorist Aid Call Boxes,” at approximately one-mile intervals, along the roadsides and bridges. These “call boxes” are connected to the EPV program dispatch center. A motorist in distress or witness to a crash can summon help by activating the “call box” which sends a signal to the dispatch center, which in turn, directs an EPV patrolman to the location. PHOTOS: Left: A “Motorist Aid Call Box Sign;” Right: IDOT EPV Program Patrolman Russell Talbott demonstrating use of one of the hundreds of “Motorist Aid Call Boxes” on the roadsides and bridges in the East St. Louis area. Courtesy of IDOT District Eight Emergency Vehicle Patrol Program Office, Collinsville.

Many major metropolitan area expressway systems in the United States have established some variation of an ETP program today, including Philadelphia, Seattle, Miami, and Atlantic City among others. The program has its overseas counterparts as well and as far away as Singapore.

Finally, when Salt Lake City, Utah was gearing up for the 2002 Winter Olympics and Utah highway officials sought assistance to manage increased traffic on the interstates there; they called upon IDOT’s “Minutemen” to help do the job. A four-man crew of IDOT “Minutemen” was dispatched to Utah with a large wrecker unit to train Utah DOT workers and to patrol a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 80. There, and back home in Illinois, the “Minutemen” have worked every day since 1961 to keep the “express” in our expressways.

Tom McAvoy is Chair of the Research and Website Subcommittee of the Illinois 50th Interstate Anniversary Committee. He is the Interim Data Systems Sub-Unit Manager, Transportation Data Bank, Bureau of Programming, IDOT Region One / District One.

Harry Lochner (1906 – 2001) Interstate Highway Pioneer
By: Chuck Kmen

A graduate of the University of Illinois, Harry Lochner, highway planner and engineer, realized the impact that automobile travel would have on post-war America. In 1944, he left his position as Assistant Superintendent for the Cook County Highway Department to begin his own firm in Chicago, Illinois. He wanted to advance his ideas for limited access highways in urban areas across the country and was a leading proponent of the interstate highway system proposed by the federal government in the mid-50’s. PHOTO: Harry Lochner. Courtesy of Chuck Kmen.

Over the next 20 years, Harry Lochner was involved in the planning of interstate highways/expressways in over 30 cities across the country, including: Louisville, KY, Atlanta, GA, Indianapolis, IN, Columbus, GA, Hartford, CT, Knoxville TN, Baton Rouge, LA, Davenport, IA, Little Rock AR, Nashville, TN, Savannah, GA, Brunswick, GA, Jacksonville, FL, Shreveport, LA, Chattanooga, TN, Macon GA, and others.

Mr. Lochner was an early leader in advancing the interstate highway program in Illinois. He developed the original plans for interstate highways/expressways in most urban areas in the state, including: Moline, Rockford, Decatur, Peoria, East St. Louis, Kankakee, Rock Island, Springfield and the Chicago area. In Chicago, Harry Lochner developed the plans for the first Chicago area expressway, the Edens Expressway (I-94). Over the years, he and his firm were involved in the planning or design of every interstate designated expressway and tollway in the Chicago area, as well as throughout the state. He was truly a pioneer of the interstate system in Illinois.

In addition to the planning and design of interstate highways in over 30 states across America, Harry Lochner earned national recognition by inventing the high-speed spiral entrance/exit ramp. Prior to designing the Edens Expressway (I-94) in Chicago, high-speed highways used circular exit ramps: the larger the radius the faster the ramp. Yet, large/fast ramps required more right of way/real estate, and smaller ramps were less safe. Mr. Lochner suggested to the Federal Public Roads Administration’s Chief of Design that a spiral be used. Start with a wide radius (high speed) and tighten as speed decreases. It worked and has been used ever since where wide radius exit ramps are not desired, restrained by environmental concerns, right of way restrictions or other similar limitations. What started as a safer entrance/exit ramp for use in urban areas has evolved into a standard used on today’s interstate highways in both rural and urban areas. Return to Top

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