Chicago, Illinois

According to Ehuacom, Chicago is the third largest city in the United States, located in the state of Illinois, in the Midwestern part of the country, on Lake Michigan. The Chicagoland metropolitan area extends into the states of Wisconsin and Indiana. Chicago has 2,697,000 inhabitants and the Chicagoland metropolitan area has 9,510,000 inhabitants (2021).


Name Population
Chicago 2.697.000
Aurora 179.000
Joliet 150.000
Naperville 149.000
Elgin 114.000

According to Mcat-test-centers, Chicago is located on the immense Lake Michigan and also on the border with Indiana. The city has a large trade center. In addition, Chicago is one of the major transportation hubs in the United States, by road, rail and air. The location on Lake Michigan has ensured that the center is also on the water. As a result, the agglomeration has grown mainly in the western and northern direction and to a lesser extent in the southern direction. A small portion of Wisconsin is also included in the Chicago metropolitan area, although the city of Milwaukee is indirectly connected to Chicago by a row of towns on Lake Michigan.

Chicago has a large number of suburbs, most of which are smaller than 50,000 inhabitants. The number of suburbs with more than 100,000 inhabitants is very limited, such as Joliet, Aurora, Naperville, Elgin and Gary. Chicago itself is quite densely built, with 4,816 inhabitants per square kilometer. This applies to the first ring of suburbs, but the outer suburbs are considerably less densely built. In the northwest, the suburbs also form a less cohesive whole, with many vacant open spaces in between.

The city has historically been an industrial city, although most industries have moved over time from Chicago to the suburbs, mainly on the south side of the city, and in Indiana. In Chicago, the largest industrial area is on the Des Plaines River, next to the Chicago Canal. There are a number of larger business parks in the suburbs, and there is also a large business park near the Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Furthermore, almost all major offices are located in Chicago Loop, the center of the city. In addition, there is a lot of employment in the suburbs, especially the Northwest Corridor along I-90 has a lot of employment. Business parks are also scattered throughout the region.

The metropolitan area measures approximately 40 miles from the westernmost suburb to Lake Michigan and 120 miles from north to south. Some portions of suburban Indiana are more than 30 miles southeast of downtown. The Chicago metropolitan area in Indiana is in a different time zone from the rest of Indiana from the rest of Indiana. This prevents commuters from having to deal with a difference in time zones on a daily basis.

Population growth

Chicago is located in Cook County, and is also presented separately below. The metro area also includes DuPage, Will, Kane and Lake County in Illinois, and Lake County in Indiana. The official agglomeration is somewhat larger, but is mainly rural in character.

Year Chicago Cook DuPage Will Kane Lake, IL Lake, IN total growth
1920 2.701.000 3.053.000 42.000 93.000 99.000 74.000 160.000 3.521.000
1930 3.376.000 3.982.000 92.000 111.000 125.000 104.000 261.000 4.675.000 +1.154.000
1940 3.397.000 4.063.000 103.000 114.000 130.000 121.000 293.000 4.824.000 +149.000
1950 3.621.000 4.509.000 155.000 134.000 150.000 179.000 368.000 5.495.000 +671.000
1960 3.550.000 5.130.000 313.000 192.000 208.000 294.000 513.000 6.650.000 +1.155.000
1970 3.367.000 5.492.000 492.000 249.000 251.000 383.000 546.000 7.413.000 +763.000
1980 3.005.000 5.254.000 659.000 324.000 278.000 440.000 522.000 7.477.000 +64.000
1990 2.784.000 5.105.000 782.000 357.000 317.000 516.000 476.000 7.553.000 +76.000
2000 2.896.000 5.377.000 904.000 502.0000 404.000 644.000 485.000 8.316.000 +763.000
2010 2.696.000 5.195.000 930.000 677.000 515.000 703.000 496.000 8.516.000 +200.000
2020 2.746.000 5.263.000 931.000 696.000 516.000 713.000 499.000 8.618.000 +102.000
2021 5.173.000 925.000 697.000 516.000 711.000 499.000 8.521.000 -97.000

The city of Chicago was already one of the largest in the world in the early 1900s, after which growth continued until the late 1940s, after which the population began to decline. After the peak of heavy industry in the 1960s, the population of Cook County also began to decline, but the more suburban counties increased in population. Lake County in Indiana was also an industrial center in itself, which also started a decline from the 1970s. Chicago seemed to start growing again from the 1990s, but the growth did not continue. The agglomeration as a whole continued to grow for some time, but this is relatively limited compared to the large cities in the south of the country. Since 2018, the entire agglomeration has experienced a population decline, with all counties shrinking in 2019, even in the outer suburbs.

Road network

Chicago’s interstate highway network

Chicago does not have a very large highway network given the vastness of the metropolitan area. However, six main Interstate Highways converge in the conurbation, and this is supplemented by 3 auxiliary routes, the I-290, I-294 and I-355. A number of highways in the metropolitan area are toll roads, which are portions or all of I-88, I-90, I-94, I-294, and I-355. It is striking that the roads are not as wide as in Los Angeles, for example, routes with more than 2×4 lanes are rare. Traffic intensities are nevertheless high.

Because there are not so many highways in the agglomeration, commuters often have to travel greater distances on the underlying road network, which consists of wide boulevards. Particularly in the western suburbs, there are places more than 15 kilometers from the nearest highway. The road network is also not much expanded, except for some road widening, few highways have been built in recent years, the most important was the I-355. The highways are often in a pretty bad condition, due to lack of maintenance, and lack of possibilities to maintain the roads due to the very heavy traffic.

The road network in Chicago and the nearest suburbs is built in a tight and fine-mesh grid model, but the newer suburbs have a less strong grid model, which is also less fine-meshed. The road network between the various suburbs is also not as well integrated as, for example, Los Angeles or Dallas. The double-deck Wacker Drive in the center is special.

All highways are named after presidents, and the highways are known as such locally.

Expressways overview

Road name length first opening last opening max AADT 2007 max AADT 2012
Stevenson Expressway 29 km 1964 1964 178.000 179.000
Interstate 57 31 km 1967 1970 140.000 157.000
Interstate 65 24 km 87.000
Kingery Expressway 5 km 1950 1950 109.000 181.000
Borman Expressway 26 km 1950 1956 166.000
Ronald Reagan Memorial Highway 42 km 1958 1958 156.000 163.000
Chicago Skyway 12 km 1958 1958 48.000 42.000
Dan Ryan Expressway 18 km 1962 1962 239.000 275.000
Kennedy Expressway 29 km 1960 1960 311.000 300.000
Jane Addams Tollway 43 km 1958 1958 171.000 173.000
Indiana Toll Road 39 km 1956 1956 42.000
Edens Expressway 24 km 1951 1951 173.000 163.000
Bishop Ford Freeway 16 km 1962 1962 104.000 156.000
Interstate 190 5 km 1960 1960 32.000 121.000
Eisenhower Expressway 25 km 1955 220.000 202.000
Interstate 290 23 km 203.000 188.000
Tri-State Tollway 86 km 1958 1958 187.000 190.000
Veterans Memorial Tollway 52 km 1963 2007 184.000 139.000
Elgin – O’Hare Expressway 10 km 1993 1993 87.000
State Route 394 24 km 61.000 61.000
Cline Avenue 19 km 1982 1982 70.000
Lake Shore Drive 25 km 1937 1986 165.000 155.000


The highway construction in Chicago started relatively late. Although the urban area already had about 5 million inhabitants by the end of the Second World War, it did not have a single highway. Chicago was arguably the largest American city without a high-quality road network. The first highway to be opened was the Edens Expressway in 1951. After that, highways were built at a rapid pace, especially toll roads in the 1950s. In 1958 the Chicago Skyway opened, and also that year the Tri-State Tollway, today Interstate 94 and Interstate 294, opened. Interstate also became 90 opened west of Chicago that year. The only toll-free highway to open in the 1950s was the Eisenhower Expressway, the first section of which opened in 1955.

Toll-free highways opened in 1960, beginning with the Kennedy Expressway in 1960 and the Dan Ryan Expressway in 1962. Also in 1962, the Bishop Ford Freeway opened in south Chicago. Interstate 80 along Chicago’s south side was also opened during that time. The last major highway opening was the Stevenson Expressway in 1964.

Chicago’s highway network has barely expanded since the mid-1960s, although many highways have been widened since then. Between 1992 and 1994, the Kennedy Expressway was widened and provided with interchangeable lanes. In 2006 and 2007, the Dan Ryan Expressway was widened to a parallel system. In 2007, Interstate 355 opened, the region’s first major highway opening in 40 years.

Unlike many other old American cities, Chicago does not have a dense highway network. Many older American cities have many State Routes and US Highways that are at least partially developed as highways. Chicago doesn’t have that, so traffic, similar to Atlanta and Houston, is concentrated on a limited number of axes. Chicago therefore has very high traffic volumes on these routes.


Chicago has notoriously high crime rates, particularly on the south side of the city and west of downtown. There are many expressway shootings in Chicago, in 2020 there were 128 shootings on Chicago’s highways. The Dan Ryan Expressway (I-90/94) in particular is notorious for its many shootings. Starting in 2021, a camera system with license plate recognition has been rolled out on highways in and around Chicago to help track gunmen.


Congestion is common in Chicago for several reasons. An important cause is the construction of the city, because Lake Michigan is added to the east, commuter flows are more concentrated from the north, west and south. The outdated I-290 and I-90/I-94 in particular are severely congested, with long traffic jams and long delays. Because many people avoid the toll roads, the underlying street network is often very busy. Strong growth on the southwest side is causing increasing congestion on I-55 toward Chicago.

In addition, I-80 on the south side of the city is the busiest truck corridor in the United States, with 42,000 trucks per day using 3 of the 4 to 5 lanes in each direction. There can be long traffic jams here, but the I-80 is being widened. There are usually no traffic jams on the toll roads, at most in front of the toll gates.

Due to the limited number of highways from the many suburbs, the intensities are often high, regularly more than 200,000 to close to 300,000 vehicles per day. At Chicago, the double numbering of the I-90 and I-94 has no less than 8 exits over one kilometer, with an exit every 80 to 100 meters in certain places. The underlying road network cannot handle the amount of turning traffic, which means that traffic jams are very easy to reverse. There are also left-hand entrances here, which makes the road image restless.

Hoofdroutes Interstate Highways

  • Interstate 55 Stevenson Expressway
  • Interstate 57
  • Interstate 80 Kingery Expressway
  • Interstate 88 Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway
  • Interstate 90 Northwest Tollway, Kennedy Expressway, Chicago Skyway
  • Interstate 94 Tri-State Tollway, Edens Expressway, Dan Ryan Expressway, Bishop Ford Mem. Expressway

Hulproutes Interstate Highways

  • Interstate 290 Eisenhower Expressway
  • Interstate 294 Tri-State Tollway
  • Interstate 355 Veterans Memorial Tollway

Chicago, Illinois