Illinois Roads - Wacker Dr., Chicago
Wacker Drive, Chicago
Wacker Drive has an Upper and a Lower, and it's not easy to get between them. Other than the two ends, there's a ramp down from Monroe St., a ramp up to Randolph St., and a couple of other ways out on other streets like Columbus Dr. and Michigan Ave. Lower Wacker is half commercial access and half vertical bypass, while Upper Wacker takes the brunt of traffic and deals with all the cross streets. On the other hand, Upper Wacker has much better views and isn't claustrophobia-inducing.
Upper Wacker Drive
NB at Lake Street, and looking west under the Blue, Green, and Pink Lines of the CTA, which cross the top of the Lake St. Chicago River truss.
Continuing north to Franklin St., in front of the 1930 Merchandise Mart building. It was the largest building in the world by floor space when it opened (4 million SF), and is still #46. To put that in perspective, the only buildings in New York City with more floor space were each of the World Trade Center towers.
Curving east, the next bridge is Wells St., and I then look north under the Brown and Purple Lines. Same story as Lake St.
EB at LaSalle St., a Chicago River bridge so interesting that it has its own page (linked at bottom).
One WB view of LaSalle.
Now to Clark St., EB and then looking north.
Some WB photos at Clark St.
The rest of this bridge is on my Chicago River bridges page (linked at bottom), but the plaque is visible from Wacker Dr.
Looking north at the State St. Bridge, with the round Marina City towers in the background.
WB at Michigan Ave. during Lower Wacker Dr. construction. The contractor didn't use a wide I-290 shield anywhere in the city that I could find.
Looking north at the southwest corner of the bridge. Click for a closeup of the intricate sculpture. This kind of effort just doesn't go into engineering anymore.
The balustrade along the south Chicago River shore as I head west from Michigan Ave.
The beginning of Wacker Dr., westbound heading up from the semi-closed lower level. If this looks like a stub, that's because this deck used to continue east - but not as Wacker Drive. This was the original route of Lake Shore Drive, curving sharply west and then sharply south again at Field Blvd. The current alignment has a much smoother S-curve to the south instead.
Looking east from the top of the stub structure at what once continued as US 41.
The remaining curb and pavement has been barricaded, but fortunately not removed, for what once continued south from here. Even after Lake Shore Drive was rerouted, part of the old roadway was left in place and used as an upper level of Field Blvd., on down to Randolph St. That was then torn down to put in a park, leaving a limo-filled road remnant.
Lower Wacker Drive
I started off southbound on Lower Wacker, but soon ran into the reconstruction near Willis Tower (which all good people know as Sears Tower). I kept going as far as I could, but finally met a friendly construction worker who asked me nicely to turn around and get out of her work zone, which I did with due haste.
The middle of an active construction zone is one of the most fun places I've ever driven. There was no pavement, just a slurry of concrete and dirt, and daylight above with half of Upper Wacker Dr. ripped out. Normally, Lower Wacker Dr. continues to I-290 and ends at Harrison St. after merging with Upper Wacker.
EB at a short subterranean street between Franklin St. and Wells St.
WB at the Wells St. Bridge. The view of some bridges can almost be better from down here than up top - if not for the fencing.
Lower Michigan Ave. SB as it comes off of the Chicago River bridge and hits Lower Wacker Dr.
EB past the Michigan Ave. Bridge to Stetson Ave.
This is a special feature known as Sub-Lower Wacker Drive. It does indeed come in below Lower Wacker, from Stetson Ave. east until a gate cuts it off at Field Blvd. These photos head eastbound under the other levels of Wacker; Upper Wacker's stub is at Field Blvd., so ramps come down to merge with Lower Wacker, and as Sub-Lower Wacker ends, the one remaining Wacker heads east to Lake Shore Drive.
Onto LaSalle St.
See more Chicago River bridges
See Chicago's buildings
Back to Illinois Roads
Back to Roads