The Cities That Work Series: History, people unite Gary-Chicago-Milwaukee mega-region
At the Metropolitan Planning Council, I interact with regional issues, specifically water, at an analytical and organizational level. Lake Michigan in particular provides an interesting common denominator between many of the region’s distinct communities. However, the connections between Chicago and Northwest Indiana are also very personal for me.
I was born in Highland Park, grew up in Buffalo Grove, and graduated from high school in Lincolnshire before going off to college in New Hampshire. As a kid from the suburbs, I had one perspective on Chicagoland. Now, as a recent college graduate, I have returned to the city to work, and my parents have moved to Northwest Indiana, where they plan to retire eventually. During the week, I work in the Loop, commuting on the Red Line from Edgewater, and I spend some weekends with my parents at their home in Beverly Shores, Ind.
Visiting my parents in Beverly Shores has given me a greater appreciation of Northwest Indiana’s role within the greater Chicago region. Although in another state, Beverly Shores is just 36 miles across Lake Michigan from Chicago, and on a clear day, you can easily see the city skyline from the beach. U.S. Rt. 12 runs through town and was the primary route from Detroit to Chicago (and on to the West Coast) before the advent of the federal highway system. The South Shore electric commuter rail line also stops in Beverly Shores at a Spanish Revival-style station that has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the decades since the heyday of Rt. 12 and the South Shore line, a network of interstate highways and freight railroads has emerged to serve our region’s growing population and varied industries, including the nation’s busiest intermodal freight distribution hub spanning metropolitan Chicago and Northwest Indiana. But the original threads that connect Chicago and Northwest Indiana remain – the two-lane roads that retain their old names, the electric rail line with its vintage stations, and the massive lake, which continues to shape many aspects of life for those who live along it.
At the analytical level where research and policy advocacy often occur, water, transit, and regional planning can easily become abstract concepts. Fortunately, I need only take a look around on the train ride between Chicago and Beverly Shores to remember how real and important these issues are to everyday people’s lives, as well as our region’s economy.
Matt Nichols is an MPC research assistant.
On Wednesday, July 25, MPC hosted our 2012 Annual Luncheon: The Cities That Work, featuring an insightful dialogue between the mayors of Gary and Milwaukee, about opportunities to strengthen the tri-state region. Leading up to the event, we featured a series of posts from guest authors and members of our staff on issues that unite the tri-state region. Read the whole series at www.metroplanning.org/citiesthatworkseries.