If you're familiar with downtown Chicago, then you probably know how important Wacker Drive is to the more than 60,000 drivers and 140,000 pedestrians who use it each day. And you probably know that this central artery--part of the city's history since the 1950s--badly needed repair and modernization.
That's why Lower Wacker, the subterranean stretch of this iconic roadway, has been closed for reconstruction since 2010. The $300 million project, which received $240 million in federal funds, is the first major repair to the north-south Wacker Drive since it was built.
And last Friday, Chicagoans celebrated as Deputy Secretary John Porcari joined Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to reopen the rejuvenated Wacker Drive.
In addition to replacing a badly deteriorated, 65-year-old viaduct, workers constructed a new and improved ramp from the lower level to the Congress Parkway above and reconfigured the Congress Parkway interchange to improve sight lines and create longer merge lanes to reduce accidents.
The newly reopened stretch also features wider sidewalks and crosswalks for greater pedestrian safety.
In addition to increasing safety for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians, the improvements to Wacker Drive will reduce traffic congestion throughout the downtown area, shortening commute times and ensuring that goods carried by truck move more efficiently around Chicago.
As Deputy Secretary Porcari said, "The 'Revive Wacker Drive' project is a testament to Chicago’s history of engineering excellence. More than a century ago, the best and the brightest Americans rebuilt this city. And today, as we look at the new viaduct and green space along the drive, we see that same spirit of perseverance and renewal."
The investments we’ve made in Wacker Drive created good construction jobs when we needed them most. They also help position the Windy City for stronger long-term economic competitiveness. Most importantly, they will make life easier for everyone navigating Chicago's busy downtown.
That's the kind of triple benefit communities across America have experienced during the Obama Administration, and exactly what they can expect as we continue to invest in the 21st century infrastructure our nation needs.