POLL: Should Part of Route 30 Be Renamed 'Paul Egan Memorial Expressway'?

POLL: Should Part of Route 30 Be Renamed ‘Paul Egan Memorial Expressway’?

For folks who have been around long enough to remember the late 1950s and early ’60s or who know a little bit about the history of Aurora, the name of Paul Egan can bring a strong reaction. Depending on who you talk to, he was either an eccentric visionary worthy of high praise or a blemish on the city that merits forever induction to the hall of shame.

Egan was born in 1898 and died in 1968. He was mayor of Aurora from 1954 to 1962.

Along the way, he earned a national reputation for his antics, which were written about in Life magazine, the New York Times, by the Associated Press, in Chicago magazine, the Chicago Tribune and probably scores of other publications. The Chicago magazine article about his life, titled Worst Mayor in America (Paul Egan of Aurora, Ill.), can be found near the top of a Google search and is available at public libraries throughout the area.

During his tenure as mayor, according to a 1990 story headlined “Chicago Originals” in the Tribune, Egan’s antics included but were not limited to:

  • Starting fistfights with other elected officials.
  • Inviting Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev and Cuban Premier Fidel Castro to visit Aurora.
  • Mass firings of City Council members, the entire, 68-man police force and nearly every police chief he hired.
  • Declaring during a Palm Sunday City Council meeting that Lenin was “almost as great a man as Jesus Christ,” and (we are not making this up) …
  • Appointing a parrot as chief of police.

We mention this only because several publications, including the Tribune, are publishing stories about Egan once again.

State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, has proposed a resolution that already has passed the state House of Representatives calling for Route 30 in Aurora to be renamed as the “Paul Egan Memorial Highway.” The resolution advances now to the state Senate.

Kofiwit’s bill emphasizes the hero side of Egan’s tenure as mayor and leaves out any portrait of the villain.

“One of the lasting legacies of Mayor Egan’s time in office was the rerouting of Route 30 south of downtown Aurora,” Kifowit said in a March 10 press release on her website. “Egan’s visionary move has proven immensely beneficial to Aurora by helping alleviate congestion and limiting air and noise pollution.”

According to the resolution, Egan “decided it was time to get the semi-trucks out of the downtown area,” so he started a campaign to convince the state to “move the road south of the city.” As a result, the city was “freed of unnecessary traffic, noise and pollution.”

If passed in the Illinois Senate, the Egan Memorial Highway would run from Route 47 to Route 34.

For some, Egan’s legacy is something to be commemorated, a nod to a politician with a flair for the dramatic. But for others, probably fewer in number as time goes by, Egan’s term as mayor is still a sore spot.

At the time of Egan’s tenure, many civic and business leaders felt Egan had made a laughingstock of the city they loved, that he treated other people terribly and that his craziness was legitimate, often mean-spirited and at times malevolent. For those folks, the idea of a “Paul Egan Memorial Expressway” is a little bit of a slap in the face.

Eccentric visionary or deranged power broker? Good guy or bad guy? Hero, villain or something in between? Should state legislators determine his legacy, or is that a decision better left close to home? Let us know in our reader poll!

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Proposed Paul Egan Memorial Expressway

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The Resolutions

SOURCE: ILGA.gov

HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION
2     WHEREAS, In the 1950s, United States Route 30 was a
3 coast-to-coast highway that went directly through the heart of
4 downtown Aurora; and
5     WHEREAS, The late Mayor Paul Egan decided it was time to
6 get the semi-trucks out of the downtown area; he started a
7 campaign to relocate Route 30 to free downtown Aurora and the
8 residential neighborhoods of the thousands of vehicles that
9 traveled the road each day; he was successful in getting the
10 State to move the road south and the city was freed of
11 unnecessary traffic, noise, and pollution; and
12     WHEREAS, Throughout the years, the relocation of Route 30
13 has brought tremendous growth to the areas that border it; and
14     WHEREAS, Route 30 continues to be improved to handle the
15 increasing traffic coming through the area and is still
16 bringing in new development; and
17     WHEREAS, Mayor Paul Egan's vision continues to benefit the
18 area's citizens to this day; therefore, be it
19     RESOLVED, BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE
20 NINETY-NINTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, THE
HJ0008 – 2 – LRB099 05919 MST 25967 r
1 SENATE CONCURRING HEREIN, that we recognize the late Mayor Paul
2 Egan on his efforts to relocate and improve Route 30 in Aurora;
3 and be it further
4     RESOLVED, That we designate Route 30 in Aurora as it
5 travels between Route 47 and 34 as the "Mayor Paul Egan
6 Memorial Highway"; and be it further
7     RESOLVED, That the Illinois Department of Transportation
8 is requested to erect at suitable locations, consistent with
9 State and federal regulations, appropriate plaques or signs
10 giving notice of the name "Mayor Paul Egan Memorial Highway";
11 and be it further
12     RESOLVED, That suitable copies of this resolution be
13 presented to the family of Mayor Paul Egan and the Secretary of
14 the Illinois Department of Transportation.