'Bat Cave' Road In Chicago Accessible To Only A Few

In Chicago, there's a 2.5 mile roadway that the city's mayor calls the "Bat Cave." It's been around for more than a decade but it's more secret than public. The mini-highway was designed to ferry conventioneers to Chicago's massive McCormick Place convention hall. It's also a favorite of politicians with just the right amount of clout. Now, some want taxis to have access too.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

In Chicago, there's a two-and-a-half-mile roadway that the mayor calls the Bat Cave. It's been around for more than a decade, but it's not well known. The mini-highway was designed to ferry conventioneers to Chicago's convention hall.

But as NPR's Cheryl Corley reports, some local politicians are arguing that the Bat Cave is being reserved for politicians with special clout.

(SOUNDBITE OF VEHICLES)

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: I'm standing at the intersection of Randolph and Michigan in downtown Chicago. And it's pretty congested, lots of traffic whizzing by.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAFFIC)

CORLEY: But I'm going to hop in a car and head on down to the lower level of Randolph, to that road not too many people know about.

So in the corner of lower Randolph, there's a kiosk with a security guard, a big sign that says: Chicago, we're glad you're here and welcome to the McCormick Place bus way. A couple of cars have passed through the gated area. No getting stuck in traffic here.

Back on upper Randolph and Michigan, cabbie Walter Williams(ph), who's been driving a cab for 40 years, says he had no clue about the shortcut.

WALTER WILLIAMS: Oh, no, we didn't know about it, but I saw it the other day. And I saw a few cars going down there, and somebody was telling me that street is just for the mayor, right?

CORLEY: That would be Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Now, Chicago is no stranger to clout and strong mayors, so maybe a mayor gets a perk or two. But the concentration on one of the city's most obscure roads doesn't please Emanuel.

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: You know, the road when it was built, it was 2000. It was - construction was completed in 2002. So it's been opened for about 11 years. For a couple of those years, I wasn't even a resident of the city of Chicago.

CORLEY: The mayor says, yes, he's called it the Bat Cave in the past. And the Cook County board president has a nickname for it too. She calls it the Magic Road. A spokesperson for the agency that provides access to the road is Melissa Stratton. She says it's not some secret VIP roadway. It's all about making it easier for people attending tradeshows to get to the convention hall.

MELISSA STRATTON: It is primarily used by buses transporting people to the venue.

CORLEY: And public safety workers and contractors. Stratton says it's one of the draws that McCormick Place uses in its marketing. At Chicago City Hall, Alderman Bob Fioretti says despite the explanation about who gets to use the road to the convention center and why, he still calls it the Mayor's Road.

ALDERMAN BOB FIORETTI: When I ask about opening it up, the first response was, oh, no, the mayor doesn't want it. I said, well, wait a minute. We should look the other way to raising revenue but more importantly causing safety in our streets so the cabs don't go through the south loop like they do through many of the neighborhoods.

CORLEY: So Fioretti wants Chicago taxicabs to have access to the Bat Cave, too, and a toll, he says, just a dollar or two that conventioneers traveling by taxi would gladly pay to avoid traffic congestion. Fred Frazier(ph), a cabdriver for 24 years, isn't too keen on that idea.

FRED FRAZIER: No, I don't think there should be another charge. There should be no additional charge. It's a road. It should be accessible to everybody.

CORLEY: But for now, the Bat Cave or the Magic Road remains a hassle-free way to Chicago's main convention center for just a few. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.