Lost on the Dan Ryan

Signs on expressways are supposed to help you find streets.  Driving north on the Dan Ryan, you encounter a series of overhead signs directing you to the express lanes.  The signs also warn that if you enter the express lanes, the next exit is 22nd Street.

Chicago doesn’t have a 22nd Street.

Dan Ryan @ 59th Street

There was a 22nd Street in the city until 1933.  Then Mayor Anton Cermak was killed, and the name was changed to Cermak Road.  In some of the western suburbs, it’s still called 22nd Street.  But those towns are at least ten miles away from the Ryan.

True, most of the streets crossing the Ryan have numbers instead of names, so why not have the signs be consistent?  But Roosevelt Road doesn’t have signs announcing “12th Street.”  Pershing Road is not called “39th Street.”  Maybe there’s some anti-Bohemian prejudice at work here.

Dan Ryan @ 47th Street

But keep heading north on the Ryan to Exit 53A.  There the sign reads “Canalport Avenue-Cermak Road.”

They finally list Cermak Road, and they’ve still made a mistake!  It would make more sense for this sign to announce “18th Street.”  That’s the major cross-street a block from the ramp.  When you get to this exit, you’ve already overshot Cermak, and have to backtrack three blocks.

Dan Ryan Exit 53A

So what’s the reason for all these misleading signs?  It’s probably very simple:  somebody made a mistake when the Ryan opened in 1962, and the city has never fixed it.

Those expressway signs are pretty big, but they can be changed.  Until 1968, the next-to-last exit on the Stevenson was labeled “South Park Way.”  When the street was renamed for Dr. King, the old exit signs were quickly replaced.

The Ryan was rebuilt some years ago, and all the overhead signs were temporarily removed.  That would have been the time to correct the mistake.  I still can’t figure out why it wasn’t done then.

Nobody knows how many drivers have gotten lost following these bogus signs.  After 56 years, isn’t it time to make things right?

—30—

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5 Responses to “Lost on the Dan Ryan”


  1. 1 Garry March 5, 2018 at 2:39 am

    It’s not the city’s job to fix them, it’s the state’s job & they flat out refuse. I keep seeing different reasons for it, but I think the real reason is that someone at ID[I]OT just hates Cermak & they just don’t want to put up correct ones.
    It might also have something to do with former Governor Otto Kerner, since he married Cermak’s daughter.

  2. 3 Dennis McClendon March 6, 2018 at 10:52 pm

    IDOT didn’t just take down the signs during the rebuild, they made all new ones (using the new Clearview typeface). And repeated the error. IDOT claims it’s to distinguish between the two Cermak exits, but as you note, there’s really only one exit that leads to Cermak.

  3. 4 JAMES F. O'NEIL March 8, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    Growing up in Chicago and learning to drive with its streets and signs prepared me well for Garfield Boulevard and 55th, Cermak and 22nd, Pulaski and Crawford. Here in Florida, the main drag in Fort Myers is US 41 and Tamiami Trail; near us is Ridge/113th/Clearwater-Largo Road, depending where you drive on it. I’m ready… Thanks for the directions. Oh, as long as there is a grid, north and south, and numbers that “work,” I can find my way.

  4. 5 JayG April 8, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    Maybe Frank Nitti’s family still has some clout.


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