The Calumet Skyway Bridge

On December 22, 1954 the City of Chicago began selling bonds to build the $88 million South Side Skyway.  Two days earlier Alderman Thomas Keane’s traffic and public safety committee had approved Commissioner George DeMents selection of DeLeuw Cather and Company as the consultant for the Calumet Skyway project.  Before planning got too far, the city settled on the name Calumet Skyway Bridge that was in direct response to laws limiting the city to toll collections for bridges, but not expressways.  The original South Side Skyway name probably resulted from original plans, which called for a minimum of seven entrances and exits on the seven-mile long road.  The name Calumet is in recognition of purpose of the project-to relieve the traffic bottleneck in the narrow corridor between Lake Michigan and Lake Calumet.    Elevated its entire length, all cross streets and rail lines are below the Skyway in order for the pavement to reach the 125-foot high bridge over the Calumet River.  News articles announcing the bond sale indicated that the right of way was to be acquired in 1955, construction was to start the following year and the Skyway to open in 1958.  It would tie directly into the Indiana Turnpike at the state line near the intersection of Indianapolis Boulevard and 106th Street.  The Indiana Turnpike was scheduled to open and did in 1956.

The Calumet Skyway, dubbed Chicago's first modern tollway opened at 1:00 on April 16, 1958 as projected.  Hal Foust from the Chicago Tribune noted the Skyway construction, which took a little less than two years was in sharp contrast to the pace of the Congress Expressway, authorized in 1944, still unfinished and with less continuous miles opened to traffic than the Skyway.  On the date of the opening the Skyway was complete except for ramps to Michigan and Indiana Avenue was which were to become one-way streets between the Skyway and the Chicago downtown.  Mayor Daley, Lieutenant Governor Crawford Parker of Indiana, 400 invitee’s and the Fifth Army Band attended the midmorning ceremonies.  The first vehicle through the barricades was a school bus with nineteen handicapped children and their teacher’s from the Niel School for Crippled Children at 8555 S. Michigan Avenue who had watched the spectacular Skyway Bridge being built over the Calumet River.