News and Events—IURD Lecture


"Chicago and Its Skyway: the Cintra-Macquarie Lease in Historical Perspective"
Wednesday, May 4, 12 to 1:30 p.m.Drawing of skyway

(Co-sponsored by the University of California Transportation Center)

Presented by Louise Nelson Dyble, PhD

Room 305, Wurster Hall, UC Berkeley campus

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The 99-year, $1.83 billion lease of the Chicago Skyway in 2004 was a landmark in the history of American toll roads, celebrated as a triumph for Chicago and an important precedent for future infrastructure concession agreements. The prior history of the Skyway had been characterized by remarkable failure. It was conceived in 1953 to address an anticipated traffic crisis caused by piecemeal highway development and a lack of regional planning. Its financing was based upon faulty traffic projections compounded by deindustrialization, leading to one of the largest municipal bond defaults in history. Its management was plagued by charges of petty corruption and neglect, and contributed to the environmental degradation and decline of Southeast Chicago.

This paper examines the history of Skyway failures, as well as the nature and context of the facility’s financial revival and reconstruction in the 1990s. It contributes an historical perspective on public-private partnerships in the context of changes in municipal policy, intergovernmental relations, global finance, and political ideology. Finally, it poses the question: did the spectacular, landmark 2004 lease represent the redemption and ultimate success of the Chicago Skyway? And if so, success for whom?

Bio: Louise Nelson Dyble is assistant professor of history at Michigan Technological University, specializing in urban history, infrastructure and the built environment, and metropolitan government and governance. Her book, Paying the Toll: Local Power, Regional Politics, and the Golden Gate Bridge won the Abel Wolman Award of the Public Works Historical Society in 2009. Dyble completed a PhD in history at UC Berkeley and won the Urban History Association’s award for best dissertation in 2004. She was appointed as the Kevin Starr Fellow in California Studies in 2005 and the Weisman Postdoctoral Fellow in American History at the California Institute of Technology in 2006. Dyble spent two years as Associate Director of the Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy at the University of Southern California. She has published articles about transportation policy in the Journal of Urban History, Technology and Culture, and the Journal of Planning History. Her article about Marin County’s freeway revolt won the 2007 Michael C. Robinson Award of the Public Works Historical Society. Her current research focuses on highway financing in the United States since from the 1920s through the present, with a focus on turnpikes and toll roads.