SOUTH CHICAGO — Lake Shore Drive, one of the city's most beloved shortcuts, just got a little bit longer.
Elected officials including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. Pat Quinn helped open a two-mile-long southern extension of the drive to traffic Saturday morning.
The event was punctuated by a series of races — a 5K run and a cycling race — and a caravan of five cars carrying elected officials among others connected to the $64 million project.
The road, which goes as far south as 92nd Street and Ewing Avenue, opens to the general public at 9 a.m. Sunday.
“This was the first project that broke ground as part of ‘Building a New Chicago’ and there is no better symbol of what that phrase means for both the South Side as well as for the city as a whole,” Emanuel said. “This is a boon for residents and business-owners who have been waiting for this day and a boon to local businesses who worked on it. We’re taking the traffic out of the neighborhood, and opening up hundreds of acres to development that will bring new businesses, new jobs and new life to the South Side.”
The new southern spur is a divided road, with two lanes dedicated to motorists and one to bicycles. About 24,000 cars are expected to use the stretch daily, according to the governor's office.
"It's an opportunity to open up the area to economic investment. ... It's an opportunity to enjoy Lake Michigan," Quinn said.
The expansion of the Drive is considered just one step in the creation of a new neighborhood dubbed "Lakeside" where the massive former U.S. Steel South Works site once stood.
A developer's plan unveiled in 2010 looked to transform the area with 13,500 homes, 125 acres of parks and a marina.
One of those park areas will be named "Steelworkers Park," Ald. John Pope (10th) said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"It's good that they are thinking of the steelworkers," said John Zaborowski, a former resident of The Bush who grew up in a family of steel workers. "I come back to my old neighborhood every week and tell the runners and walkers, don't forget the 50,000 people who worked here on steel."
The extension of the road also did open up Park No. 523 to the public, which stretches along the lake from 87th Street to the Calumet River. The public had previously been barred from the site.
Saturday's unveiling was largely celebratory, with elected officials and Dan McCaffery, who is leading the redevelopment of the area, pointing out the economic benefits of the neighborhood's planned changes. Three protesters did interrupt the ceremony chanting "Jobs, not condos" but refused to comment additionally.
Outside of that outburst, the crowd largely approved of the new road.
"This is a great addition. It's going to bring people to the area. We are trying to bring more people down here, more diversity," said resident Alejandro Bedoy, 32, who has lived in the area for 18 years.