Roads and freeways in Chicago

Roads and freeways in Chicago

Roads and freeways in Chicago summarizes the main thoroughfares and the numbering system used in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs.

Night view of the Chicago Skyway tollbooths at the entrance to the Chicago southbound city limits


Street layout

Chicago's streets were laid out in a grid that grew from the city's original townsite plat. Streets following the Public Land Survey System section lines later became arterial streets in outlying sections. As new additions to the city were platted, city ordinance required them to be laid out with eight streets to the mile in one direction and 16 in the other direction. A scattering of diagonal streets, many of them originally Indian trails, also cross the city. Many additional diagonal streets were recommended in the Plan of Chicago, but only the extension of Ogden Avenue was ever constructed. In the 1950s and 1960s, a network of superhighways was built radiating from the city center.[1]

As the city grew and annexed adjacent towns, problems arose with duplicate street names and a confusing numbering system based on the Chicago River. On June 22, 1908, the city council adopted a system proposed by Edward P. Brennan; amended June 21, 1909. The changes were effective September 1, 1909 for most of the city.[2] Addresses in Chicago and some suburbs are numbered outward from baselines at State Street, which runs north and south, and Madison Street, which runs east and west.

A book was published in 1909 by The Chicago Directory Company indexing the old and new street numbers for most of Chicago. This volume is available on line in pdf format indexed by initial letter, Plan of Re-Numbering, City of Chicago, August 1909.[3] The opening text of this useful book says:

The new house numbering plan passed by the City Council June 22, 1908, to be in force and effect September 1, 1909, makes Madison Street from Lake Michigan to the city limits on the west the base line for numbering all north and south streets and streets running in northerly or southerly direction. For east and west streets and streets running in a generally east and west direction the base line is State Street from the southern city boundary line to North Avenue, thence extended by an imaginary line through Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan."

The downtown area did not conform to this system until April 1, 1911, per an amendment to the law on June 20, 1910. Downtown was defined as Lake Michigan on the east, Roosevelt Road (Twelfth Street) on the south, and the Chicago River on the north and west. The addition to cover downtown was published, and is also on line as a pdf indexed by downtown street name.[4]

This additional paragraph explained the downtown changes:

"The 1909 address change did not affect downtown Chicago, between the river and Roosevelt Road, the river and Lake Michigan. The ordinance was amended June 20, 1910 to include the downtown area. The new addresses for the “loop” went into use on April 1, 1911."

Chicago house numbers are generally assigned at the rate of 800 to a mile. The only exceptions are from Madison to 31st Street, just south of downtown. Roosevelt Road (previously Twelfth St) is one mile south of Madison with 1200 addresses to the mile, Cermak Road (previously 22nd Street) is two miles south of Madison with 1000 addresses to the mile, and 31st Street (3100 S) is three miles south of Madison with 900 addresses to the mile.[5] South of 31st Street, the pattern of 800 to the mile resumes, with 39th Street the next major street, 47th after that, and so on. Individual house numbers are normally assigned at the rate of one per 10 feet of frontage. Thus the last two digits of house numbers generally go only as high as 67 before the next block number is reached. Higher house numbers are found on diagonal streets and have sometimes been assigned by request.

The blocks are normally counted out by "hundreds," so that Chicagoans routinely give directions by saying things such as "about twelve hundred north on Western" or "around twenty-four hundred west on Division" (which both describe the intersection of Western Avenue (2400 W) and Division Street (1200 N)).

South of Madison Street most of the east-west streets are simply numbered. The street numbering is aligned with the house numbering, so that 95th Street is exactly 9500 South. "Half-block" east-west thoroughfares in this area are numbered and called places; 95th Place would lie just south of and parallel to 95th Street, and just north of 96th Street.

Every four blocks (half-mile) is a major secondary street. For example, Division Street (1200 N) is less important than either Chicago Avenue (800 N) or North Avenue (1600 N), but is still a major thoroughfare. However, this is not always the case; for example, on the city's Far North Side, Peterson Avenue (6000 N) is a more heavily trafficked street than Bryn Mawr Avenue (5600 N), which sits exactly at the 7-mile marker. U.S. Route 14 is routed along Peterson between Clark Street at 1600 W and Cicero Avenue at 4800 W, whereas Bryn Mawr is discontinuous, split into two segments in this part of the city by Rosehill Cemetery between Damen and Western Avenues.

Even-numbered addresses are found on the north and west sides of a street, and odd numbers are found on the south and east sides, irrespective of the streets' position relative to the corner of State and Madison.

Diagonals, even if they were to run exactly 45 degrees off of the cardinal directions, are numbered as if they were north-south or east-west streets. Examples are North Lincoln Avenue and Ogden Avenue, which bends at Madison and changes from North Ogden to West Ogden.

The northernmost street in Chicago is Juneway Terrace (7800 N), just north of Howard Street. The southern boundary is 138th Street. The eastern boundary of Chicago is Avenue A/State Line Road (4100 E) along and south of 106th Street, and the furthest west the city extends is in the portion of O'Hare International Airport that lies in DuPage County, just east of Elmhurst/York Road.

Street names

While all north-south streets within city limits are named, rather than numbered, smaller streets in some areas are named in groups all starting with the same letter; thus, when traveling westward on a Chicago street, starting just past Pulaski Road (4000 W), one will cross a mile-long stretch of streets which have names starting with the letter K (From east to west: Keystone, Karlov, Kedvale, Keeler, Tripp, Kildare, Kolin, Kostner, Kenneth, Kilbourn, Kolmar, Kenton, Knox, Kilpatrick, Keating), giving rise to the expression "K-town." These streets are found approximately in the 11th mile west of the Indiana state line, and so begin with the 11th letter of the alphabet. A mile later, just past Cicero (4800 W), the starting letter changes to L, and mile by mile the letters progress up to P. Additionally, for most of the first mile west of the Illinois/Indiana state line, streets are lettered from Avenue A at the state line (4100 E) to Avenue O (3430 E), forming the A group. The areas that might otherwise be the B through J groups are the older parts of the city where street names were already well established before this system was developed (although some small groups of streets seem to have been given names intended to conform to the system), and the Q group (8800 to 9600 W) would fall west of the city, as the only land in Chicago west of 8800 West is O'Hare Airport, undeveloped forest preserve, and a small strip of land connecting O'Hare to the rest of the city and containing only Foster Avenue.


Some suburbs number their east-west streets in a continuation of the Chicago pattern, and even more number their houses according to the Chicago grid. A few suburbs also number their north-south avenues according to the Chicago grid, although such numbering vanished from Chicago itself long ago (the alphabetical naming scheme was devised to help eliminate it). For example, the 54th/Cermak terminus of the Pink Line is located near the intersection of 54th Avenue and Cermak Road (22nd Street) in Cicero. This is 54 blocks west of State Street in Chicago. A minor street 54½ blocks west of State Street would be called 54th Court.

This pattern continues as far west as Plainfield, which has a 252nd Avenue. Suburbs that follow the Chicago numbering system include Niles, Rosemont, Morton Grove, Skokie, Lincolnwood, Franklin Park, River Grove, Evergreen Park, Oak Lawn, Oak Forest, Matteson, Channahon, unincorporated parts of Des Plaines, and other parts of Cook County, Will, and DuPage Counties. Other suburbs, including Evanston, Park Ridge, Oak Park, Glenview and Wilmette use their own numbering systems. Lake County IL uses State and Madison as a base line as do DuPage County. For example, 32W234 in DuPage is 32 miles west of State St., 38964 in Lake County would be 38 miles north of Madison St. and is normally used without the direction letter.

Some Chicago suburbs in adjoining Northwest Indiana also use the Chicago numbering system. These include East Chicago, Whiting, and Hammond. There are even examples further south in Lake County in Dyer and Schererville such as 205th Place through 215th Street (these examples coordinate with the Chicago grid, not the Gary street system). Other municipalities, such as Munster, Highland, and Griffith are based on the Gary, Indiana numbering system, beginning with 5th Avenue in Gary and increasing numerically as one travels southward. Examples in far south Lake County, Indiana near Lowell and Cedar Lake include 109th Avenue, 117th Avenue and 203rd Avenue.

The aforementioned pattern also occurs in Waukegan, Illinois, with Washington Street being the baseline between north and south. Nearby municipalities such as Gurnee, Park City, and North Chicago continue with the Waukegan numbering pattern, while rural areas in Lake County, Illinois follow the Chicago grid.


Mile roads

East-West Streets North-South Streets
Mile Address number Street name Address number Street name
14 11200 N Lake Avenue 11200 W Wolf Road
13 10400 N Central Road 10400 W US 12.svg US 20.svg US 45.svg Mannheim Road
12 9600 N Illinois 58.svg (Golf Road) 9600 W Rose Street (Franklin Park) also called 25th Avenue
11 8800 N US 14.svg Illinois 58.svg (Dempster Street) 8800 W East River Road
10 8000 N (Oakton Street) 8000 W Pacific Avenue
9 7200 N Touhy Avenue 7200 W Illinois 43.svg Harlem Avenue
8 6400 N Devon Avenue 6400 W Narragansett Avenue (Ridgeland Avenue in the suburbs)
7 5600 N Bryn Mawr Avenue 5600 W Central Avenue
6 4800 N Lawrence Avenue 4800 W Illinois 50.svg Cicero Avenue (Skokie Boulevard in Skokie)
5 4000 N Illinois 19.svg Irving Park Road 4000 W Pulaski Road (Crawford Avenue in the suburbs)
4 3200 N Belmont Avenue 3200 W Kedzie Avenue
3 2400 N Fullerton Avenue 2400 W Western Avenue
2 1600 N Illinois 64.svg North Avenue 1600 W Ashland Avenue
1 800 N Chicago Avenue 800 W Illinois 1.svg Halsted Street
0 1 N/S Madison Street 0 E/W State Street
1 1200 S Illinois 38.svg Roosevelt Road 800 E Cottage Grove Avenue
2 2200 S Cermak Road 1600 E Stony Island Avenue
3 3100 S 31st Street 2400 E Yates Avenue
4 3900 S Pershing Road 3200 E Brandon Avenue
5 4700 S 47th Street 4000 E Avenue C
6 5500 S 55th Street (Garfield Boulevard)
7 6300 S 63rd Street
8 7100 S 71st Street
9 7900 S 79th Street
10 8700 S 87th Street
11 9500 S US 12.svg US 20.svg 95th Street
12 10300 S 103rd Street
13 11100 S 111th Street
14 11900 S 119th Street
15 12700 S 127th Street
16 13500 S 135th Street
17 14300 S 143rd Street
18 15900 S US 6.svg 159th Street

(No part of Golf Road, Dempster Street, Oakton Street, 143rd Street, or 159th Street actually lies within the boundaries of Chicago. These streets are included for reference, since they are a continuation of the Chicago mile street pattern into the suburbs.) [6]


Many streets in downtown Chicago are considered major streets:

Secondary streets

  • East/west:
    • 10000 N – (Old Orchard Road)
    • 9200 N – (Church Street)
    • 8400 N – (Main Street)
    • 7600 N – Howard Street
    • 6800 N – Pratt Avenue
    • 6000 N – US 14.svg Peterson Avenue
    • 5200 N – Foster Avenue
    • 4600 N – Wilson Avenue (not a half-mile)
    • 4400 N – Montrose Avenue
    • 3600 N – Addison Street
    • 2800 N – Diversey Parkway
    • 2000 N – Armitage Avenue
    • 1200 N – Division Street
    • 400 N – Kinzie Street
    • 1000 S – Taylor Street (not a half-mile)
    • 1600 S – 16th Street
    • 2600 S – 26th Street
    • 3500 S – 35th Street
    • 4300 S – 43rd Street
    • 5100 S – 51st Street (East Hyde Park Boulevard)
    • 5900 S – 59th Street
    • 6700 S – Marquette Road (67th Street)
    • 7500 S – 75th Street
    • 8300 S – 83rd Street
    • 9100 S – 91st Street
    • 9100 S – 99th Street
    • 10700 S – 107th Street
    • 11500 S – 115th Street
    • 12300 S – 123rd Street
    • 13000 S – 130th Street (not a half-mile)

The half-mile numbered streets on the South Side are all secondary streets: 35th, 43rd, 51st, 59th, etc.; all are numbered aside from Marquette Road, running at 6700 S, west from Martin Luther King Jr. Drive (400 E) to the city's western limit at Cicero Ave (4800 W), near Chicago Midway International Airport. East of King to near Lake Michigan at 2400 E, it is called 67th Street, and Marquette is aligned one block to the north on what would be 66th Street.

  • North/south:
    • 9400 W – River Road (not a half-mile)
    • 8400 W – Illinois 171.svg Cumberland Avenue
    • 7600 W – Oriole Avenue
    • 6800 W – Oak Park Avenue
    • 6000 W – Austin Avenue
    • 5200 W – Laramie Avenue
    • 4400 W – Kostner Avenue
    • 3600 W – Central Park Avenue
    • 3400 W – Kimball Avenue (Homan Avenue) not a half-mile
    • 2800 W – California Avenue
    • 2000 W – Damen Avenue
    • 1200 W – Racine Avenue
    • 400 E – Martin Luther King Jr. Drive (King Drive)
    • 800 E – Cottage Grove Avenue
    • 1200 E – Woodlawn Avenue
    • 1600 E – Stony Island Avenue
    • 2000 E – Jeffery Boulevard
    • 2628 E – Torrence Avenue (not a half-mile)
    • 2800 E – Burnham Avenue
    • 3000 E – Commercial Avenue (not a half-mile)
    • 3600 E – Avenue L

(No part of Old Orchard Road, Church Street, or Main Street actually lies within the boundaries of Chicago. These streets are included for reference, since they are a continuation of the Chicago mile street pattern into the suburbs.)

The numbering system is also copied in Milwaukee.[citation needed]

Diagonal roads

The following streets run diagonally through Chicago's grid system on all or part of their courses. These streets tend to form major 5 or 6-way intersections. In many cases they were Indian trails, or were among the earliest streets established in the city. Diagonals are numbered as north-south or east-west streets. Examples are North Lincoln Avenue and Ogden Avenue, which bends at Madison and changes from North Ogden to West Ogden.

  • N. Rogers Avenue
  • N. Ridge Avenue/Boulevard
  • N. Broadway
  • N. Clark Street
  • N. Rush Street
  • US 41.svg N. Lincoln Avenue
  • N. Sheridan Road
  • US 14.svg N. Caldwell Avenue
  • N. Lehigh Avenue
  • N. Clybourn Avenue
  • N. Kingsbury Street
  • N. Elston Avenue
  • N. Avondale Avenue
  • Illinois 21.svg N. Milwaukee Avenue
  • N. Northwest Highway
  • W. Forest Preserve Drive
  • Illinois 72.svg W. Higgins Avenue
  • W. Grand Avenue
  • US 20.svg W. Lake Street
  • W. Fifth Avenue
  • US 34.svg N. and W. Ogden Avenue
  • S. Blue Island Avenue
  • S. Canalport Avenue
  • Illinois 171.svg S. Archer Avenue
  • W. Columbus Avenue
  • S. Vincennes Avenue
  • S. Beverly Avenue
  • S. Anthony Avenue
  • S. South Chicago Avenue
  • S. Exchange Avenue
  • S. Ewing Avenue
  • US 41.svg S. South Shore Avenue
  • US 12.svg US 20.svg US 41.svg S. Indianapolis Boulevard


Interstates in Chicago

The city of Chicago proper has seven major interstate highways crossing through it. However, the various roadways are more typically known to Chicagoans not by their Interstate numbers but rather by various given names. The local vernacular uses "Expressway" for most Interstate grade highways; however, it is most common for Chicagoans to omit the designation entirely and refer to the highway by just its name, i. e. "The Eisenhower," or "The Dan Ryan" will be immediately comprehensible to any Chicagoan.

  • The Edens Expressway (Interstate 94 and U.S. Route 41) runs south from the Cook County line (Lake-Cook Road) near Northbrook to its interchange with the Kennedy Expressway near Montrose. The Edens Spur (formally a part of the Tri-State Tollway) splits off near the north end to interchange with the mainline Tri-state. All of the Edens except for the small portion north of where the Edens Spur splits off, and all of the Edens Spur, is signed as Interstate 94; the northernmost section is signed as U.S. Route 41. North of the northern terminus U.S. 41 continues north into Lake County as Skokie Highway. U.S. 41 is overlaid on Interstate 94 from the junction with the Edens Spur to the Skokie Road exit in Wilmette.
  • The Dan Ryan Expressway (Interstate 90 and Interstate 94, then separately Interstate 57) runs south from the Circle Interchange (where it interchanges with the Kennedy and Eisenhower Expressways and with Congress Parkway) near the Chicago Loop, through the Spaghetti Bowl where it interchanges with the Stevenson Expressway (Interstate 55), then past an interchange with the Chicago Skyway near 66th Street, to its southern terminus in south Chicago, where it interchanges with the Bishop Ford Freeway and continues southwest through south Chicago and the southern suburbs toward Champaign-Urbana. The Dan Ryan is signed as Interstate 94 until it interchanges with the Bishop Ford Freeway and Interstate 57; the Dan Ryan is then signed as the latter (although for the purposes of local traffic reports and conversation, the Dan Ryan is usually considered to end at the Interstate 57 interchange). The portion between the Circle Interchange and the junction with the Chicago Skyway is overlaid with Interstate 90. There are express and local lanes running through downtown Chicago on the south side of the city which were under construction until their completion in November 2007.
Eisenhower Expressway and Chicago Transit Authority's Blue Line connect the western suburbs with the Chicago Loop.
  • The Eisenhower Expressway (Interstate 290, and then separately Illinois Route 53; formerly "Congress Expressway") runs from the Circle Interchange near the Loop almost due west to Chicago's western suburbs, interchanging with the Tri-State Tollway and the eastern terminus of the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway (Interstate 88) near Hillside, Illinois, after which it turns northwest (as the "Eisenhower extension"). At the interchange with Interstate 90, it continues as Illinois Route 53 until eventually terminating at Lake Cook Road. Schaumburg. The name "Congress Parkway" persists for the short section east of the Circle Interchange, which connects the three major expressways to Lake Shore Drive (U.S. 41).
  • The Stevenson Expressway (Interstate 55) has its northern terminus at Lake Shore Drive near the McCormick Place convention center. From the junction with Lake Shore Drive, the Stevenson runs southwest where it interchanges with the Dan Ryan before heading to the south and southwestern neighborhoods of Chicago. The Stevenson then continues past Chicago Midway International Airport and out of Chicago. After leaving Chicago it intersects with the Tri-State Tollway and the Veterans Memorial Tollway, and then heads southwest out of the Chicago area toward Joliet (where it intersects Interstate 80) and on into central Illinois.
  • The Veterans Memorial Tollway (Interstate 355) (formerly the North-South Tollway) runs from an interchange with Interstate 290 through the western suburbs to a complex interchange with Interstate 88 before continuing south to the redone interchange with Interstate 55, its former southern terminus. Then it continues on 11 miles of new tollway to its southern terminus at Interstate 80.
  • The Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway (Interstate 88; formerly the East-West Tollway) runs from a complex interchange with the Eisenhower Expressway and the Tri-State Tollway west to another complex interchange with Interstate 355. Then it heads through the western suburbs into north-central Illinois.
  • Interstate 57 runs from the junction of the Dan Ryan Expressway and Bishop Ford Freeway south-southwest to the southern suburbs. Known originally as the "Dan Ryan West Leg", the name has since dropped from common usage. As such, it is the only expressway within the city of Chicago lacking a formal name.
  • The Bishop Ford Freeway (Interstate 94, and then separately Illinois Route 394; originally named the Calumet Expressway, and still referred to as such in some local traffic reports) starts at the southern terminus of the Dan Ryan Expressway and heads first southeast and then south through southern Chicago and into Chicago's southern suburbs, where it intersects with the western end of the Kingery Expressway and the eastern end of the Tri-State Tollway, then continues on further into the south suburbs before downgrading to a surface highway and eventually terminating into Dixie Highway (Illinois Route 1) south of Crete, Illinois. The portion of the Bishop Ford Freeway north of the interchange with the Kingery Expressway is signed as Interstate 94; south of that point it is signed as Illinois Route 394.
  • The Chicago Skyway (Interstate 90) angles off from the Dan Ryan Expressway near 66th Street and heads southeast toward Indiana. Whether or not the Skyway is part of Interstate 90 is a matter of some debate. The eastern end of the Skyway ends with toll bridge over the Little Calumet River and (incidentally) the Indiana state line; on the other side of the state line the Skyway ends at the western terminus of the Indiana Toll Road.
  • The Tri-State Tollway (Interstate 294, and then separately Interstate 94) only enters Chicago at one point: its interchange with the Kennedy Expressway and North-West Tollway on the far northwest side. Otherwise, the Tri-State circumvents the city of Chicago entirely, running entirely through the suburbs from its northern terminus near the Wisconsin border to its southern terminus at the interchange with the Bishop Ford Freeway and the western end of the Kingery Expressway. North of the junction with the Edens Spur the Tri-State is signed as Interstate 94; south of this it is signed as Interstate 294, and the southern part of that is overlaid by Interstate 80 (which continues east past the eastern terminus of Interstate 294 as the Kingery Expressway and on into Indiana).
South Lake Shore Drive, looking north into the heart of the city
  • Lake Shore Drive (U.S. Route 41) is a major highway running along the Lake Michigan shoreline from Hayes Drive (63rd Street) in southern Chicago to the intersection of Hollywood Avenue and Sheridan Road in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood. For most of its length, Lake Shore Drive is signed as U.S. Route 41. Parts of Lake Shore Drive are constructed at or near expressway grade, but there are a number of at-grade intersections, especially near downtown. Nonetheless, "LSD" (as it is often referred to) is a major arterial with a great deal of cultural as well as transportation significance to Chicagoans.

See also


External links

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