- The Washington Times - Monday, November 25, 2002

CHICAGO (AP) Home to vagrants, rodents of legendary size and an obstructing support column, decrepit Lower Wacker Drive was as much a Chicago classic as Bears football and Old Style beer.
Millions of people who have never driven it would recognize the crumbling, menacingly dim street from a famed chase scene in the movie "The Blues Brothers." Most Chicago motorists preferred to leave the covered thoroughfare to delivery drivers and cabbies.
But now, with a $200 million renovation finished and a splash of publicity about its reopening this week, the drive that hugs the Chicago River beneath some of the city's priciest real estate could become as popular as its overhead counterpart.
Both levels of one of Chicago's busiest thoroughfares are scheduled to reopen tomorrow after nearly two years of reconstruction.

"It was dark and somewhat challenging," said Brian Steele of the Chicago Department of Transportation.
"Lower Wacker was a favorite secret among many motorists, something that they liked to keep to themselves or sometimes impress their friends," Mr. Steele said. "The secret is out."
Wacker Drive was built in 1926, and during the Great Depression its lower level was known as the "Hoover Hotel" by the destitute men who called it home.
The reconstruction is being completed on time and within its budget. Lighting has been improved, a lane has been added for delivery drivers turning off to the loading docks that serve 57 high-rise buildings along the drive, and difficult-to-navigate corners have been smoothed out.
And that column in one lane of traffic is gone.
"All I know is I didn't hit it," Mr. Steele said of his own driving experiences.


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