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Quinn: Jane Byrne Interchange 'right name for a coming together'

Former Mayor Jane Byrne was all smiles after ceremony August renaming Circle Interchange downtown Chicago Jane Byrne Interchange. | Michael

Former Mayor Jane Byrne was all smiles after a ceremony in August renaming the Circle Interchange in downtown Chicago the Jane Byrne Interchange. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times file photo

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Updated: October 1, 2014 6:44AM

As thousands of Labor Day weekend travelers inch their way through the city’s expressways, they’ll notice a new group of signs posted at the circle interchange.

The confluence of the Kennedy, Dan Ryan and Eisenhower expressways and the Congress Parkway is now the Jane Byrne Interchange, named for the city’s first and only female mayor. The Illinois Department of Transportation unveiled the four signs as Gov. Pat Quinn spoke at a dedication ceremony Friday at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s student center.

Former Mayor Jane Byrne, 81, who made her first public appearance since Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2011 inauguration, was confined to a wheelchair and didn’t speak at the event.

“We decided that the Jane Byrne Interchange would be the right name for a coming together, a bridge that brought people together to come into the city of Chicago, where she served as our mayor from 1979 to 1983,” Quinn said.

The former mayor’s daughter Kathy Byrne spoke on behalf of the more than 30 relatives present, calling the day “significant and wonderful and very joyous.”

Ald. Ed Burke (14th), who was in office during Byrne’s regime, recognized the former mayor as a trailblazer.

“She improved how we utilize urban space; she dreamed of the day when Chicago’s Loop would be more than just a work place destination,” Burke said.

A large replica sign was unveiled at the ceremony, which Kathy Byrne said would likely end up with her son, Willy Vogt, 17, when he goes off to college a year from now.

“I just feel glad she’s been appreciated by her city,” Vogt said of his grandmother.

Angel Correa, who was Byrne’s deputy commissioner for the Department of Neighborhoods, came to the dedication wearing his 1983 Byrne campaign button and carrying his city identification card.

“This is long overdue,” Correa said.

In a city filled with landmarks named for politicians, the interchange marks the first time Byrne, originator of the Taste of Chicago, the Museum Campus, the redeveloped Navy Pier and the city’s first handgun ban, has been honored. The dedication of the interchange comes after Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed began a campaign to recognize Byrne.

The City Council voted to rename the Old Water Tower Park after Byrne in July, though it isn’t clear when the name change will take place, or if the former mayor’s beloved Children’s Fountain will be moved to the park, as her daughter requested.

In an interview with the Sun-Times, Byrne said she is looking forward to the park dedication and hopes to see her fountain in place.

But Byrne said she wasn’t after recognition when she embarked on projects for the city.

“I would have done it anyway,” Byrne said.

Besides, being remembered isn’t something she was worried about.

“If you do a good job, you are,” Byrne said.


Twitter: @dhnovak

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