South Lake Shore Drive extension opens Oct. 27

2-mile road could support housing, commercial development on old USX property

Construction workers paint crosswalks across an extended section of South Lake Shore Drive on the grounds of the former U.S. Steel South Works plant in Chicago on October 8, 2013. (Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune)

The South Lake Shore Drive extension, Chicago's newest roadway, is less than two weeks away from opening along a part of the city that for more than 100 years most people have seen only from a distance.

It has been 21 years since the blast furnaces at U.S. Steel Corp's massive South Works plant went silent. But the cyclone fences that have cordoned off the roughly 600-acre site — about twice as big as Grant Park — are about to come down.

Removal of the barriers on the old USX property will clear the way for thousands of drivers and many cyclists each day to use the roughly 2-mile extension of South Lake Shore Drive from just south of Rainbow Beach, at 79th Street and South Shore Drive, to 92nd Street at Ewing Avenue, near the Calumet River. It is also marked as the relocated U.S. Highway 41.

The road's opening will also provide the key piece of infrastructure that for years has been missing from far-reaching plans to develop an area that has been approved to include up to about 18,000 residents, beaches and marinas and 25 million square feet of retail, commercial and research facilities.

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