There’s a subterranean city hiding beneath five miles of Chicago’s streets and sidewalks—and it’s warm. The pedway, a 40-block maze of tunnels, corridors, staircases and revolving doors, is the perfect way to navigate the city with your kids and avoid the wind, snow and slush above ground. You can travel from Illinois Center, through hotels around the Chicago River, into residential and commercial buildings on Michigan Avenue and west to City Hall without ever stepping outside.
Call it an urban maze— or call it the city’s best-kept underground secret. But while this was not designed specifically to be family friendly, it is a big tunnel and you know how kids love tunnels.
So, here’s a quick lesson on the pedway, so you’ll feel comfortable going underground with your family.
Most portions of the pedway are open 24 hours a day and the busier stretches house shops, restaurants, dry cleaners, even a grocery store or two. An estimated 100,000 or more people travel the pedway on any winter day, according to Brian Steele, of the Chicago Department of Transportation.
Development of the pedway began in 1951, with the one-block underground tunnel connecting the Red and Blue Line CTA stations from Dearborn Street to State Street.
Over the decades, public and private developers expanded the walkway, with the most recent section in the basement of the new building, Heritage at Millennium Park, 18 S. Michigan Ave. In this section, you’ll find stainless steel-wrapped columns, marble and glass finishes and other modern touches, a far cry from many of the older and starker sections of the system.
The city recently unveiled a new pedway logo, an updated map and put up better signs at both eye- and foot-level to make it easier to find and travel the pedway. (Visit www.cityofchicago.org/transportation for a pedway map.)
Appearances aside, "The pedway is a great way to get from point A to point B," says Steele. "It’s a great alternative on a winter day."
Editor’s note: The one-block pedway connection between the Red and Blue Line CTA stations from Dearborn Street to State Street is closed through 2007 because of construction at 108 N. State St., or Block 37.