Joliet officially reopens Chicago Street, an original alignment of Route 66

The Joliet City Council on Monday marked the official reopening of North Chicago Street in downtown Joliet, Illinois, along with officials from the Joliet City Center Partnership, Joliet Chamber of Commerce and Will County.

According to The Times Weekly:

“This is an exciting day for all of Joliet as we reopen an iconic street in the heart of downtown Joliet. Reopening this section of Chicago Street is a significant step toward redeveloping the entire corridor,” said Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk. “The negotiations we had with Will County regarding the new courthouse and opening Chicago Street show what can happen when elected officials decide to work together. I want to thank Will County Government, including the late Larry Walsh Sr., for their willingness to cooperate with the City of Joliet.”
For many decades Chicago Street served as the main street through the heart of the City. In 1926, Chicago Street became Route 66, solidifying the street’s iconic nature. In 2016, the City of Joliet undertook an initiative to create a plan for the redevelopment of downtown Joliet. It became clear that most traffic was bypassing this historic route due to disconnected one-way streets and other issues. Because many historic civic institutions are still located in downtown Joliet, coupled with several major catalytic projects completed so far, the reopening of Chicago Street became a priority. The City of Joliet has allocated $3 million in Rebuild Illinois grant funds toward the redevelopment project.
“Reopening the southern end of Chicago Street will allow traffic to travel more easily through downtown Joliet and pave the way for significant redevelopment of this area,” said O’Dekirk. “This is a momentous occasion in Joliet’s history. I would like to thank those involved with the project who made this day possible.”

Katie Smith put together an album of historic photos of Chicago Street here. The big historic landmark on that street is the Rialto Square Theatre, which was built in 1926, the same year U.S. 66 was federally certified.

(Vintage image of Chicago Street and the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, Illinois, by Katie Smith via Flickr)

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