Interstate 494 Illinois

I-494 Illinois


The designation of Interstate 494 was proposed twice in Chicago, first for Lake Shore Drive and later for the Crosstown Expressway. Neither of the two I-494 routes were completed, although the “Ohio Street Extension” of the Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94) in Chicago was signed as Interstate 494 for a short time in the 1960s as part of the connection from Lake Shore Drive to I-94.1

The Illinois Division of Highways proposed relocating Interstate 494 from Lake Shore Drive to the Crosstown Expressway in 1963. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved the revision of Interstate Route 494 on October 15, 1964:

From a junction with FAI 94 in southeast Chicago northwesterly to a junction with FAI 55 and thence northerly to a junction with FAI 94 in the north part of Chicago.

The state of Illinois submitted an application for the relocation of Interstate 494 to the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) on May 4, 1966. It cited a need for a true bypass route away from the Loop to alleviate congestion on the existing radial expressway system. Further adding that approximately 80 to 85 percent of traffic passed through the Chicago Business District and not into during a typical work day.

The Crosstown Study Area, located at a distance approximately eight miles from the Loop, indicated that 72% had a high degree of congestion ranging from 10 to 200% over the maximum capacity. The Crosstown Expressway would also serve one of the largest industrial areas in the city of Chicago. Lastly, an analysis of user benefits indicated that constructing the new bypass route would provide a higher return of investment than the reconstruction of Lake Shore Drive.

AASHO approved the relocation on July 5, 1966.

Route Information

  • North End – Chicago, IL

  • South End – Chicago, IL

  • Mileage – 14.1 miles – Lake Shore Drive
    20.4 miles – Crosstown Expwy
  • Cities – Chicago

  • JunctionsI-90 I-94

Source: May 5, 1966 AASHO Application for the Relocation of Interstate Route 494


Lake Shore Drive

Interstate 494 was part of the Illinois proposed urban Interstate numerology approved by AASHO on November 10, 1958. I-494 was an urban loop encircling the Chicago Loop east along Ohio Street to Lake Shore Drive, and south along Lake Shore Drive to a connection with the Chicago Skyway via Stoney Island Road. Lake Shore Drive, which carries U.S. 41 through Chicago, was originally constructed in 1933 from Belmont Avenue north to Foster Avenue. This prototype expressway was among the first to feature certain limited access features such as grade separations. The parkway extended south toward the Loop.

Planners called for Lake Shore Drive to be brought up to Interstate standards with an expressway connection from Interstate 94 to Lake Michigan at both the south and north ends of the roadway. The connecting routes from Lake Shore Drive – Stony Island Road from I-94 (Bishop Ford Expressway) and the vicinity of Foster Avenue or Peterson Avenue from I-94 (Edens Expressway), were never built. Rand McNally 1969 and 1972 Chicago and Vicinity maps showed Interstate 494 cosigned with U.S. 41. It is unlikely this pairing was ever signed along Lake Shore Drive. Lake Shore Drive was subsequently never improved to Interstate standards, and today the highway remains substandard.

I-494/Lake Shore Drive - 1960 Map

I-494/Lake Shore Drive – 1960 Rand McNally North American Road Atlas.

Crosstown Expressway

The Crosstown Expressway was a proposed urban freeway loop offering an alternate route around Downtown. The expressway would have begun at Interstate 94 (Dan Ryan Expressway) at the exchange (Exit 96C) with 75th Street and follow the 75th Street corridor west via the Belt Railway of Chicago. Turning north, Interstate 494 (Crosstown Expressway) would have run parallel to Kolmar Avenue, which is located just east of IL 50 (Cicero Avenue). The projected path of I-494 continued northward along the Belt Railway of Chicago, roughly following Kenton Avenue to I-90/94 at the point where the Edens Expressway splits from the Kennedy Expressway (Exit 43A). This alignment appears on a 1971 Chicago and vicinity General Drafting road map.

Local community opposition, environmental issues, and a national concern about the effects of constructing freeways in urban areas ultimately killed the Crosstown Expressway. Funds for Interstate 494 were officially traded in for additional transit funds shortly after the 1976 death of then Mayor Richard J. Daley.2

Chicago, IL - 1971

I-494/Crosstown Expressway proposed on the 1971 General Drafting Chicago and Vicinity Map.


  1. Moberly, Bob. “Interstate Guide Comment.” Personal Email. January 4, 2008.
  2. Encyclopedia of Chicago: Expressways by Dennis McClendon of the Chicago Historical Society

Page updated July 21, 2021.