What’s in a Name? Chicago’s Interstates Explained

by Derek Kaden

The city of Chicago has a number of interstates passing through it, and almost every one has its own name. If you’ve ever heard a traffic report in Chicago, it can sound overwhelming and confusing. Where exactly are all of these sections of interstate, and how did they get their names? Today I put together a map to show you exactly where each part of an interstate starts and stops in Chicago, and I explain where each of these names come from. If you live here, hopefully this alleviates confusion the next time you listen to a traffic report, and if you live elsewhere, you will be a more well-seasoned traveler next time you’re passing through the Windy City.

Chicago's Interstates

Chicago Interstates Map

Chicago Interstate Names Explained

Kennedy – Completed in November 1960, it was originally named the Northwest Expressway until 1963. It was then renamed in honor of recently assassinated President John F. Kennedy.

Dan Ryan – The Dan Ryan Expressway opened in December 1962. It was named after Cook County Board President…Dan Ryan, who was a supporter of expressway construction.

Edens – Named after William G. Edens, who was a banker and advocate of paved roads early in the 20th Century. The Edens was the first Interstate in Chicago, and opened in December 1951.

Eisenhower – First referred to as the Congress Expressway, and later named after President Dwight D. Eisenhower, its first stretch of completion was in December 1954. Famous Chicago journalist Mike Royko called I-290 Chicago’s only Republican Interstate, since Eisenhower is the only Republican political figure after which the Interstates were named. The Eisenhower is also the first Interstate in the United States to be fused with public transit (Chicago’s ‘Blue Line’).

As Interstates are concerned, Eisenhower is the most important name on the list. He signed the Interstate and Defense Highways Act as President in 1956, which rapidly increased Interstate construction across the nation. This Act decreed that the Federal Government would cover 90% of all construction costs, while the State only had to pay 10.

Stevenson – Opened for traffic in September 1964, this Interstate was originally known as the Southwest Expressway. Exactly one year later, the Interstate was renamed after Adlai Ewing Stevenson II. Stevenson was Governor of Illinois from 1949 to 1953. He was also the Democratic candidate for President in 1952 and 1956, where he lost decidedly both times against…Dwight D. Eisenhower!

Bishop Ford – The Bishop Ford is a stretch of I-94 that runs around Lake Calumet and a large industrial corridor on Chicago’s far south side. Christened the Bishop Ford Memorial Freeway in 1995, it is named after Louis Henry Ford, who was a Bishop and an advocate of social justice.

Chicago Skyway – Opened in April 1958, and originally referred to as the Calumet Skyway, this is one of only two sections of Interstate in Chicago that is not named after a person.

I-57 – The only section of Interstate referred to by number. Unofficially, it is called Dan Ryan’s West Leg. But that just sounds a bit…strange.

Why is the Ocean Salty?

by Derek Kaden

Why is the Ocean Salty?

The Ocean is salty because of dissolved land materials that are deposited into the Ocean through streams and rivers. Stream and river water does not taste salty because it is moving, compared to the Ocean, which is essentially a giant bath tub. The concept is the same for most lake water. The Great Lakes are not salty because the water contained within them is on the move. According to an article by Science Daily, a drop of water in the Great Lakes will stay there for approximately 200 years before it makes its way out to sea, whereas a droplet of water in the Ocean can take up to 200 million years before it goes anywhere!

Farming for sea salt in Thailand.

Farming for sea salt in Thailand.

Why are Some Lakes Salty?

The most well-known salty inland lakes are the Great Salt Lake in Utah and the Dead Sea in Western Asia. These bodies of water are so salty because they receive a lot of dissolved river deposits and offer no further outlet for those deposits to go. In addition, evaporation is greater than rainfall in these areas. The more evaporation in an area, the higher the salinity (saltiness of water) will be. Rainfall causes salinity levels to sink. The Great Salt Lake has an approximate salinity of 280 parts per thousand, which is 8 times saltier than the average salinity of the Ocean. The Dead Sea’s salinity is 330 parts per thousand, or almost 10 times saltier than the Ocean. The saltiest known inland body of water is the Don Juan Pond in Antarctica, a very small and shallow patch of water that has a salinity of 440 parts per thousand, which is 12 and a half times saltier than the Ocean!

The dense salty water of the Dead Sea makes it very easy to float - without a floaty!

The dense salty water of the Dead Sea makes it very easy to float – without a floaty!

What are the Key Differences Between Fresh Water and Salt Water?

Some of the most marked differences between fresh water and salt water are in their freezing points and boiling points. Pure water freezes at a very familiar temperature: 32 degrees Fahrenheit (o Celsius). Average Ocean water that has salinity of 35 parts per thousand freezes at a lower temperature: 28.6 degrees Fahrenheit (-1.9 Celsius). In fact, the more saline a body of water is, the lower the temperature must be for that water to freeze. Since the Don Juan Pond is so salty, it still doesn’t freeze even when temperatures reach -22 degrees Fahrenheit (-30 Celsius)!

The boiling point of average Ocean water is only slightly higher than the boiling point of fresh water. Fresh water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 Celsius), whereas Ocean water boils at 213.1 Fahrenheit (100.6 Celsius). This means that adding salt to your soup or pasta water will actually make the food cook slightly quicker, and it will of course make it taste better! It’s important to add the salt after the water starts boiling, otherwise it will take longer to reach a boil.

What is the AAG and Where Does it Come From?

by Derek Kaden

What is the AAG? It stands for the Association of American Geographers, and it is the premier academic and professional geography organization in the United States. Since 1904, the organization has hosted an annual conference. This year, it’s being held for 5 days – April 21st to the 25th – in Chicago.

A Brief History of the AAG

Back in 1904, the AAG was founded by 48 people, 46 of which were men, and 2 women. All were “white”, which is not very surprising considering the time. In the beginning, much of the debate in the AAG and in the academic realm of geography revolved around this question: how does the environment influence us as humans? For example, how does the environment affect how people in Wisconsin behave, live, and work compared to people in the hills of Appalachia? One of those founding women, Ellen Churchill Semple, infamously argued that people living in harsh areas, like in Appalachia, were bound to be stupid because all of their time must have been spent on surviving and transporting goods up and down dangerous and steep hills. On the flip side, people living in flatter landscapes were expected to be smarter and more accomplished in life by societal standards of the time, because more time could be spent of creativity and not mere survival. This concept is called environmental determinism.

Semple, like many early geographers of the AAG, were influenced heavily by academic geographers from the recently unified German Empire. Semple was a student of Friedrich Ratzel (1844-1904), who is associated with a nationalistic idea called Lebensraum. This word is made up of the German noun “das Leben”, meaning “life”, and another noun “raum”, meaning “room” or “space”. It translates to “living space”, which a good handful of European countries – most infamously Germany – wanted more of.

Possibly one of the most accomplished geographers from the AAG also came from this early period, but a little bit later. His name was Richard Hartshorne (1899 – 1992). He was also influenced by the German School of Geography, particularly the lineage of Carl Ritter (1779 – 1859), who was the first Professor of Geography in Berlin in 1820, Ferdinand von Richthofen (1833 – 1905), not to be confused with the Red Baron who has the same last name, and Alfred Hettner (1859 – 1941), who was seen largely as a copy cat of von Richthofen. For Hartshorne, Geography was an “exceptional” subject because of the uniqueness of regions. To him, there was a beauty and complexity to how people across various regions of the world lived and behaved. One of my geography professors, Alec Brownlow, used a nice example that stuck to explain what “uniqueness of regions” actually means.

Take a look at this mosaic of a bee. If you zoomed in and compared some tiles side by side, they would look practically identical. There isn’t any uniqueness, because some tiles could be swapped we wouldn’t even know the difference. Bee

Now, compare the bee to this mosaic of Mario. No two tiles are exactly the same. If we swapped one tile for another, it would be obvious because each tile has its own unique design. For Hartshorne, this uniqueness of regions is what is so fascinating about Geography.


At the 1923 AAG Conference, Harlan Barrows, the organization’s president at that time, presented a paper calling Geography the “Mother of Sciences”. He essentially contended that fields like Astronomy, Physics, Anthropology, and Zoology, among others, branched off as little polyps from Geography. On one hand, he has a point. The word Geography comes from Greek, and it means to “write about the earth”. Writing about the earth applies to pretty much any subject, so it would make sense that over time other specialized fields like the ones I mentioned came into existence. His article is written sort of defensively, as if to tell all of the other disciplines in the world that “we were here first!” and “you all came from us”!

To me, the AAG president in 1947, John Kirtland Wright, offered the best explanation of what geography is in his presidential address titled Terrae Incognitaewhich comes from Latin meaning “unknown land”. In it, he talks about a term he came up with called geosophy, or the study of geographical knowledge from any or all points of view. This article laid the foundation for thinking of geography as an interdisciplinary discipline, instead of trying to narrowly categorize it as a “science”, a “study of regions”, a “study of landscapes”, or some other label.

However you look at it, geography is a diverse field – from cartographers, Java programmers, academics, and people who study why and where people feel afraid. An interdisciplinary discipline describes it best.


When is Easter Celebrated…And Where?

For Catholics and Protestants, Easter already happened this past Sunday. However, for Orthodox-Christians it is still to come. Why, you might ask? The reason has to do with the different calendars that Orthodox and non-Orthodox churches follow.

I learned from Kathleen Manning’s article that Pope Gregory XIII decided to implement a new calendar for areas under Catholic influence in 1582, because the old one – the Julian calendar – was 11 minutes too long. To fix this issue of time, Gregory zapped 13 days from the old Julian year which moved the official day of spring – the Spring Equinox – from April 3 to March 21. Now, you may or may not know (I didn’t until earlier today) that Easter always falls on the Sunday following the first full moon on or after the Spring Equinox. Since Orthodox churches follow April 3 as the Equinox, the timing of the full moon can make Easter land on a different day. Last year, for example, there was a full moon on April 15 – after the Equinox date on both calendars – so Easter was celebrated on the same day. This year, because of the timing of the full moon, Easters are separated by a week (the Orthodox one being on April 12)-meaning bonus celebrations for any families that might have a mixture of Orthodox and non Orthodox backgrounds!

In Chicago, there are thousands of immigrants from countries with predominantly Christian Orthodox backgrounds. Check out the Christian Orthodox Countries map below, and whether you’ve celebrated it already or not, happy Easter!

Christian Orthodox Countries Map

Christian Orthodox Countries Map