The news that the State of Illinois just designated a stretch of Interstate 55 the Barack Obama Presidential Expressway could not be more timely. Having returned from a recent trip to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, I was musing on the ways in which residents of different cities refer to their expressways.


Twin Cities denizens are logical and matter of fact. They refer to their highways by number: 94, 394, 494, 694 etc. Outside of Highway 35, which is a north/south route that branches off into an East side road and a West side road, such references make it easy for the out-of-towner to get around without confusion.


Out in Los Angeles, where I lived for a number of years, residents also use numbers to refer to their expressways, even though many of the highways have names, such as the Santa Monica Freeway and the San Diego Freeway. The twist is that for some reason, Angelenos like to put a “the” in front of the highway number. So it’s the 10, the 405, the 5, and so on. The only major road known by its name more than its number is Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, known to locals as the PCH.


Here in the Chicago area, we like to call our expressways by name. I-290 is the Eisenhower, I-55 the Stevenson, I-294 the Tri-State. I-94 is variously called the Dan Ryan or the Edens, depending upon what part of the city it is headed toward. I-90 changes its name from the Kennedy Expressway to the Rockford (or Jane Addams, if you prefer) Tollway as it heads northwest away from the airport. As you might imagine, this can make things a bit confusing for people from out of town. To make matters worse, we’ve nicknamed the Eisenhower Expressway “the Ike,” so a newcomer listening to a traffic report of congestion on the Ike might have no idea what road is being referenced.


The only interstate that is consistently referred to by number and not name is 88, the Reagan Memorial Tollway. (I have my theories as to why that might be.)


I like to think it’s our friendly folksiness that makes Chicagoans so chummy with our roadways that we like to call them by name. On the downside, the gridlock faced by commuters on most of these roadways can give the historical figures for which they are named a bad rap. Let’s just say that in Chicago, I don’t like Ike.


It might not be fun driving in heavy traffic down the newly named Barack Obama Presidential Expressway through Springfield. But it will be entertaining to start hearing the radio news choppers reporting, “Traffic is heavy on the outbound Obama” or “A crash has shut down two lanes of the Obama.” Who knows? Maybe before too long we’ll be calling it “the Barry.”


Dale Murrish Added Dec 4, 2017 - 9:30am
Not surprising that Ronald Reagan Expressway is not called by its name in mostly liberal Chicagoland. I grew up in NW Indiana so I am familiar with the various names. Didn't even know there was a highway named for Reagan there. Fortunately in DC there is a Reagan airport. Always glad to hear him honored, even in DC.
For what it's worth, the expressways around metro Detroit are also named: M-10 is the Lodge, M-39 is the Southfield, I-75 is named the Chrysler, but is usually just called I-75, and I-94 probably has a name but it's generally called I-94. I-96 is the Jeffries.
I'm glad we don't have tolls roads and bridges in Michigan except for the Mackinac Bridge and the international bridges and tunnel to Canada. But don't get me started on toll roads. :-)
Dale Murrish Added Dec 4, 2017 - 9:32am
And of course M-1 is Woodward Avenue, home to the Woodward Dream Cruise. It was named after Augustus Woodward, a judge and the guy who laid out Detroit's streets similar to Pierre L'Enfant in Washington DC.
Mary Rayis Added Dec 4, 2017 - 9:45am
Thanks for your comments, Dale. I'm a bit familiar with those freeways you mentioned in Detroit. As for the Reagan, you'll be happy to know that it travels through a fairly conservative suburban area of Chicago and on out to Reagan's birthplace in Dixon, Illinois!
Dave Volek Added Dec 4, 2017 - 3:49pm
As a numbers person, I prefer numbered highways and streets. Less confusing.
I remember being a tourist in Vienna. There was lots of statues of great Habsburg politicians and army generals commemorating events and battles of long ago. I got to thinking about all the pigeon poop on these statues.
Dale Murrish Added Dec 4, 2017 - 5:36pm
In the Detroit area we have Mile roads that help people learn where they need to go. The north-south mile roads are named and the east-west ones have numbers, mostly. Eight Mile Road is the northern border of Detroit and also the county line between Wayne County and Oakland and Macomb counties to the north. 
I live north of Big Beaver Road, which is 16 Mile road in Macomb County. Long Lake Road is named after a lake in Oakland County and is 18 Mile Road in Macomb County. 
My latest blog post talks about a development planned by the City of Troy along Big Beaver Road near the I-75 interchange where the Troy Civic Center is located - check it out:
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 4, 2017 - 7:40pm
Then name another section of interstate the Janet Reno Memorial Highway. That way you could have the "Barry", the "Scary" (aka the Tri-State Tollway), and another rhyming pair: The Ike and The Dyke
Yes, I know that's not PC. Its still funny.
Neil Lock Added Dec 4, 2017 - 7:41pm
Speaking as an Englishman, this takes me back to the year I lived in the western suburbs of Chicago (Oak Brook), almost 30 years ago. I well remember the I-290 bottleneck. Ike was slower than bike. Fortunately, I rarely had to drive it.
Mary Rayis Added Dec 4, 2017 - 7:51pm
Yes, Neil, Chicago is known for traffic congestion, and the Ike is seriously outdated. The area to the west of the city has grown so much that there is no way our old highway system can handle it. The pols talk about fixing the problem, but I'm not sure I will see if in my lifetime.
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 4, 2017 - 7:57pm
Good evening Neil :) always a pleasure
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 4, 2017 - 7:59pm
In your years in oak brook did you ever venture to Wolfs head Tavern in Indian Head Park?
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 4, 2017 - 8:00pm
I think I'm recalling the names correctly
Neil Lock Added Dec 4, 2017 - 8:35pm
TBH: I've looked on the map, and I don't remember going much in that direction; about 45 blocks south of where I lived, if not also a little way east.
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 4, 2017 - 8:49pm
sounds about right
john guzlowski Added Dec 4, 2017 - 8:50pm
My biggest complaint against Obama is that he didn't fix the US interstate system.  I travel frequently on 95 and 81 and the beltway around DC.  They are a disaster.  
Hopefully Trump will fix all this.
Jeff Michka Added Dec 4, 2017 - 9:00pm
john guzlowski sez: Hopefully Trump will fix all this.-I think Trump's "president," Jared Kushner has been given that job.  With luck, he'll get to it before his trial and jail time. LOL
Mt. Moix Added Dec 4, 2017 - 10:25pm
In Baton Rouge, U.S. Highway 61 is known as Scenic Hwy in some parts; Old Scenic Hwy for a section of 2 lane highway that became less used when a parallel 4 lane was constructed; Airline Hwy when you're going through the main part of the city and all the way to N.O.; and of course, it's known as the famous Blues Highway in Mississippi, but I don't know how the local Mississippians or anyone further north of that refer to it. It goes all the way to Chicago and on to Minnesota. Maybe someone here knows how it's referred to in other parts of the country.
Flying Junior Added Dec 5, 2017 - 2:44am
Why do you have faith that Trump will fix the interstate system?  So far he hasn't fixed one pothole.
Flying Junior Added Dec 5, 2017 - 2:51am
Now, the cloven gambler he was very bored;
Trying to create a next world war.
He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor.
He said, "I never engaged in this kind of thing before;
But yes, I think it can be very easily done.
We'll just put some bleachers out in the sun
And have it on Highway 61."
Jeff Michka Added Dec 5, 2017 - 8:33pm
john guzlowski sez: Hopefully Trump will fix all this. -Maybe he'll get all the trains to run on time, too.