Obama could be a highway star — but should it be I-55 or I-294?
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Should it be the Barack Obama Expressway or the Barack Obama Tollway?
Democratic state legislators seem to agree that the hometown state senator made good should take his place alongside Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy and others immortalized in Illinois highways.
But they apparently hit a fork in the road over just what stretch of pavement should get the honor.
Two Illinois state representatives have competing plans to rename different Illinois highways after Obama.
On Jan. 26, state Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, submitted House Joint Resolution 0017 that would designate “the entirety of Interstate 294 of the Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways as the “‘President Barack Obama Tollway,’” state legislative records show.
The move to designate all of Interstate 294 after Obama is in “recognition of President Barack Obama’s dedication to public service as an Illinois State Senator, U.S. Senator from Illinois, and President of the United States of America,” the resolution reads.
That resolution — co-sponsored by State reps. Marcus C. Evans, Jr., D-Chicago, and Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria — was assigned to the House’s Tollway Oversight Committee on Wednesday.
The same day, state Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, announced he is drafting legislation that would rename the majority of Interstate 55 in Illinois as the “Barack Obama Expressway.”
According to a statement from his office, Ford will propose renaming the stretch of the expressway from the Tri-State Tollway to East St. Louis.
Ford said the decision to rename the expressway was borne from Obama’s frequent trips between Springfield and Chicago when he was an Illinois State senator.
“We can imagine that then state Senator Obama made many trips between Springfield and Chicago on Interstate 55, so it is very fitting that we rename Interstate 55 as the Barack Obama Expressway,” Ford said.
Between the Tri-State and Lake Shore Drive, the expressway bears the name of former Illinois governor and presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson.
According to Ford’s statement, he will propose the 270-mile stretch of interstate from the Tri-State Tollway west to East St. Louis be renamed after Obama.
Under Martwick’s resolution, the 53 miles of the Tri-State Tollway from south suburban Lansing to north suburban Deerfield would be renamed for the former president.
In his statement, Ford said “many highways and byways” will be renamed for Obama, “so it is only right that Illinois be at the forefront of the many actions that will rename streets and highways for President Obama.”
Ford’s statement did not address his colleagues’ already-filed legislation to do just that on an Illinois tollway.
Ford did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday night and his statement did not disclose when he planned to introduce the legislation.
Martwick, Evans, Gordon-Booth could not be reached for comment.
In addition to the multiple efforts to rename stretches of highways after Obama, three bills — two in the House and one in the Senate — were submitted to designate Obama’s Aug. 4 birthday as an official state holiday. Another House resolution, seeks to declare Aug. 4, 2017 and Aug. 4, 2018 as “Barack Obama Day” in the state.
All four pieces of legislation were submitted between Dec. 9, 2016 and Feb. 9, 2017, with one of the House bills introduced on Jan. 20, the last day of the Obama presidency.