The Pedway, the Loop’s handy walkway system, is about to become easier to navigate

Photo: CDOT
Photo: CDOT

The Chicago Pedway is an overlooked layer of Chicago’s transportation system. It’s downtown’s network of indoor pedestrian pathways, including below-ground tunnels, street-level concourses and overhead skyways, covering about five miles, and connecting more than forty city blocks. It allows pedestrians to traverse the Loop without having to deal with cold, heat, rain, snow or the Loop’s hectic, often dangerous, street traffic.

Map of the Pedway.
Detail of the city’s map of the Pedway. View the full map here.

In the past navigating the Pedway has been something of an acquired skill, but it’s about to get easier. The city of Chicago recently announced it’s upgrading the signs within the network, the first step in a more ambitious plan to upgrade wayfinding.

The new interim signs are being installed in the Pedway’s “main stem,” the segment that along Randolph Street and connects City Hall, Daley Plaza and the Thompson Center to the CTA Blue and Red lines and Millennium Station, which serves Metra and South Shore Line trains. The walkways were closed last winter during the COVID-19 pandemic and reopened last summer.

The Chicago Department of Transportation and Department of Assets, Information and Services are working on these upgrades with groups like the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Chicago Loop Alliance, the CTA, Metra, the Regional Transportation Authority, and multiple property owners along the Pedway.

IMG_8466
Photo: CDOT

“The Pedway is a great way for people to navigate downtown, especially during inclement weather,” CDOT commissioner Gia Biagi said in a statement. “The new signage is the first step toward long term improvements in the Pedway that will make it easier for people to find their destinations, whether for shopping, tourism, transit, work, or heading home.”

“The new Pedway signage will help Chicagoans and visitors alike navigate and more easily use the Loop’s underground walkway system that has been an underutilized Chicago asset for too long,” stated ELPC executive director Howard Learner. “This is a key step toward revitalizing the Pedway. ELPC Senior Policy Advocate MeLena Hessel has worked hard alongside the CDOT team and other stakeholders to turn the vision of Pedway signage into a reality. This initiative, plus lively new mural art and future improvements will attract more people to use the Pedway as a connector between CTA, Metra trains and Loop offices and businesses – just in time for winter.”

New wayfinding signs are installed in the Pedway System in Chicago's Loop; November 2021.
New wayfinding signs are installed in the Pedway System in Chicago’s Loop; November 2021.

“Chicago Loop Alliance has programmed the Pedway with public art, performances and events for years in an effort to draw awareness to what a great asset it is to our community—especially during our infamous winters,” said CLA president and CEO Michael Edwards in a statement. “We’re thrilled to see this interim signage installed and look forward to long-term wayfinding improvements. These efforts will make the Pedway more accessible and navigable for all.”

The ELPC supported a recent successful CDOT application for federal funding to carry out a full Pedway wayfinding modernization program. The transportation department says his project will hire a team of wayfinding specialists to develop and implement a new systemwide sign and info plan in the coming years.

Read a travelogue of exploring the Pedway system here.

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Keith Griffith is a Chicago-based freelance writer and arts critic. The Chicago Pedway, a warren of corridors connecting over 50 downtown buildings with Metra and CTA stations, can be baffling to navigate. But with dozens of private owners controlling different sections, administering the system might be an even bigger challenge. Susan Mea, a veteran planning […]

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