The First New Chicago Expressway

On December 15, 1955 the first new expressway in the city of Chicago, a 4.5-mile section of Congress Street running from Ashland Avenue to Laramie, was opened to traffic.  Although not continuous, 7 miles of the Congress Expressway were now open and for the first time an entity other than Cook County had constructed an expressway within county limits.  At the expressway dedication ceremony in December, Dan Ryan noted that the roadway had been under discussion for three decades before it was actually built and after a few more remarks said,  “That’s enough talk, let’s drive it.”  As the last speaker he was surely anxious to get in the car and out of the cold.  Pictures of the ceremony show the speakers manfully striving to appear unaffected by the below zero temperatures augmented by wind whipping through the speakers platform on Congress under Laramie Avenue.  Also at the dedication was Chicago Police Chief Michael Arhern who warned that the new roadway was not a speedway and that the 45-mph speed limit would be strictly enforced.  Despite the Chief’s warning, a seventeen year old was clocked at double the posted speed limit within a week of the celebration.  Just over a month later that section of the Congress Expressway handled over 58,000 vehicles each day, most of who were traveling at speeds closer to the 45 MPH posted limit.