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
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Interstate Stories / Insights
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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”
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.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.
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