Back, Back, Back to the Drawing Board
Updated: December 30, 2011 1:48PM
Oh Grampy, tell us the old stories about Willow Road and the scary IDOT and the darling children darting between cars at rush hour. Please tell, pleeeeze.
With bittersweet nostalgia, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Study I in the Matter of the Willow Road Expansion. Visionary though that document was, it pales in comparison to many of its successors.
Among connoisseurs, Study XXI stands out for the ingenuity of its 12-leaf overpass, LVII for anticipating the sue of lasers to neutralize road rage, and XC for its Confucian inscrutability.
Popularly known as the Twins, Studies XVI and XVII were issued simultaneously by a single committee, and so persuasively did each made the case for diametrically opposed solutions that the entire process ground to a half for six years.
One marvels at the proposals embedded in these well-loved texts—hundreds of miles of would-be roads, widened, narrowed, almost, almost built, rejected, despised, resurrected and re-rejected this past half-century. So bountiful were these geometric delights that sooner or later one was bound to please someone, though, as it turned out, never more than a half-dozen citizens at a time.
For many years, a perennial favorite was the proposed expansion of Willow Road to 16 lanes, a solution for all seasons, or so it was widely believed. With no speed limit, driving times along the fabled 1.2-mile corridor would be slashed. And since 16 lanes would require the razing of all nearby schools, feverish moms no longer would fear that Little Darlene might be flattened walking to first grade. But even by Cook County standards, kickbacks got out of hand, and after three more governors went to prison, the project was scuttled.
Who can ever forget Proposal #A-17.5.5? Through a labyrinth of tunnels, the North Shore’s finest golden retrievers were to haul the ethereal children to school in refurbished rickshaws. Zero emissions! Al Gore loved that one.
Or remember the Sunset Canal (#47.2)? Simplicity itself: Three autos to a flatboat, then a mere two-hour float from Waukegan Road to Edens, allowing otherwise harried commuters to enjoy facsimile willow tress along the shore and, near voyage’s end, unobstructed views of beautiful downtown Northfield.
Until it was squashed by IDOT (which in 2014 moved its headquarters from Springfield to the Dominick’s parking lot), Northfield taxpayers favored the scheme designed by Middlefork second-graders, a simple detour that looped up past Minneapolis and eventually crossed the Bering Strait. No unsightly construction, no more billable hours.
Saturday next at 11 a.m. all are invited to the Golden Anniversary commemoration of those first studies of our own Miracle Mile. Featured events will include that Lutheran Church choir singing, “By the Time I Get to Eden,” a recitation by local Girl Scouts of the 2009 Crash Rate Report, and a reenactment of the bloody three-way duel between the Town Managers of Northfield, Glenview and Northbrook. At ceremony’s end, surviving veterans of the Community Advisory Group will unveil a monument at the intersection of Willow and Wagner, rumored to consist of a towering toilet, down which $127,388,402 has, in this noble endeavor, vanished forever.
Calvin Fentress lives in Northfield