Before the reconstruction of Wacker Drive, complete and open as of Friday, the city's major thoroughfare was dirty, dark, and gritty -- not exactly ideal conditions for commuters, but great for filming some of Hollywood's most exciting chase scenes.
(See below for scenes shot on the old Wacker Drive.)
Chicagoans could easily pick out scenes filmed on Upper and Lower Wacker Drives from major blockbusters like "The Blues Brothers," "Batman Begins," "Wanted" and even the driving video game, "Need For Speed." The yellow-ish lights of old Lower Wacker whizzed past daily commuters and the Batmobile alike, though the winding paths and dim views were, for real-world purposes, badly in need of an overhaul.
Speaking on the Wacker Drive of yore, Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein told The Expired Meter, “It was tough to navigate. Someone told me once when they drove down a ramp onto Lower Wacker they said they would ‘close your eyes, hit the gas and hope for the best’.”
After the lengthy construction project, Wacker Drive reopened Friday resembling very little of its former incarnation. The major aspects of the Wacker facelift are broken down at The Expired Meter, but include a lighting boost, better ventilation and raising the roof by a foot for delivery trucks.
"It's a very happy day for all of us," said Daniel Burke, chief engineer for the Chicago Department of Transportation, according to NBC Chicago. "I'm glad to report we were both on time and on budget. It couldn't have gone off more smoothly, which is very fortunate. It's a credit to everyone who worked on the project."
Reconstruction of the double-deck highway boulevard totaled $300 million, reports the Tribune.
Klein told the Tribune, "Now it’s a modern, much more safe and efficient roadway whether you are in a car, using transit, biking or walking.’’
Time will tell whether Hollywood sustains as much excitement over the re-done Wacker Drive as the rest of Chicago.
The second phase of rebuilding Wacker started in the spring of 2010. Previously, the 57-year-old roadway had a first phase of construction that lasted from 2001-2002.