Put Jane Byrne on the list of people whom future generations of Chicagoans will regard as a mere road.
Forget the humanity that ever existed. People will forget the fact that Byrne was once mayor of Chicago, or that she was the first (and thus far, only) woman to hold that post.\
BECAUSE HOW MANY people do you really think remember that Dan Ryan, Jr., was once a Cook County Board president. Or that the Bishop L.H. Ford was once a significant leader of the Church of God in Christ?
Instead, we hear the daily traffic reports about how backed up traffic was on the "Ryan" for those people working their way into the heart of the city.
We even hear exotic reports about this "Ford Freeway" that always seems absurdly backed up headed north in the morning, and south in the evening -- but that many people living in the metropolitan area never go anywhere near.
Admittedly, Byrne's name will get more prominence because she's getting the Circle Interchange named after her. That's the point where all the expressways that head downtown converge.
IT'S THAT POINT where many motorists from all over Chicago and surrounding suburbs converge. It is a place with much potential for auto accidents of all sorts.
Which makes me wonder if we're destined to hear of so many people being killed or maimed at the Byrne Interchange that her name will take on an even more negative connotation now than it had for some people back when she was mayor and interfering with their efforts to push yet another concocted scheme through City Hall?
One significant difference; Byrne was still alive last week when ceremonies were held to mark the official renaming of the interchange.
Unlike Ryan and Ford, who had already passed on by the time the expressways that took their identities became a part of the daily commutes that occur in Chicago.
ALTHOUGH CONSIDERING HOW long it took for Byrne to get anything of significance named in her honor, I can't help but wonder if some political people were preferring that she be deceased before they had to get around to doing anything.
Even Harold Washington got his namesake tribute (a public library building) so many years ago that I wonder how many people are losing track of the man.
We now have Ryan, Ford and Byrne, to go along with former Governor and U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson and former presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy as the namesakes of Chicago's major expressways.
Ronald Reagan has his own expressway up in the far northwestern suburbs; which I suspect makes his ideologue backers happy. His road doesn't stretch into the city, because his political programs and ideas often ignored the concerns of urban America.
ALTHOUGH LOOKING AT the non presidential types who get a Chicago expressway, I can't help but notice some odd sense of balance -- although I believe it is unintentional.
A white Irish type in Ryan, an African-American preacher in Ford and a woman in Byrne. Does this mean we're going to someday need a Latino of sorts to provide another sense of balance?
Which makes me wonder if the day is going to come when we're going to get a significant road named for Rep. Luis Gutierrez? I'm not sure which road it will be. For all I know of the "Chicago Way," it's likely that someone will want to build a new road (and get rich off the awarding of the construction contracts) just so that the congressman's name will have a place to go.
And someday, the outspoken congressman will become nothing more than a place where winter icy conditions caused a series of fender-bender accidents.