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Aerial view of Dan Ryan Expressway, Chicago, 1960s

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Aerial view of Dan Ryan Expressway, Chicago, 1960s
Chicago Transit Authority


This object appears in the following sections:

City and Suburb: Chicago and Park Forest, Illinois, 1950s
City and Suburb: Chicago and Park Forest, Illinois, 1950s — The Automobile and the City

Dan Ryan expressway aerial, Chicago, Illinois
Currently on display
Not a part of the official Smithsonian Collection
Starting in the early 1950s, the City of Chicago went about the process of acquiring and clearing the land for the second stage in building its limited access superhighway network. The highway through the South side-and some of the poorest areas of the city-would come to be known as the Dan Ryan Expressway. When the first section opened in 1961, the Dan Ryan was the widest and busiest highway in the world.
Physical Description
Photograph. Black-and-white photograph of the Dan Ryan Expressway.
Date Made:
Courtesy of Chicago Transit Authority

In the 1950s the growing perception of Chicago officials, business leaders, and urban planners was that, along with traffic congestion, the physical blight of the slums played a large part in undermining the quality of urban life and even the economic future of the city. Rather than substantially addressing the sociological issues that effected the growing slums-for example, racial discrimination and the maldistribution of economic and political power--public officials, with support from the business community, chose to focus on the physical deterioration of the neighborhoods and to look for ways to remove the aging housing of the poor. They determined that building long-planned superhighways would not only allow the growing number of suburbanites easier access to the city, but also clear out slum areas to make way for more profitable development.

With the passage of the Interstate and Defense Highway Act of 1956, the federal government became fully involved in making decisions about urban transportation, and Chicago served as a working model for using transportation networks to reshape metropolitan areas. As originally envisioned, the highway act provided for the construction of 41,000 miles of high performance, interstate highways across the U.S. at a cost of 27 billion dollars--about 15 billion of which were to be spent on 8000 miles of urban expressways.

Related People, Places, and Events
Related Place
Chicago, Ilinois

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