Now that the Obamas have returned to private life, the couple has shifted their focus to items like the anticipated Obama Presidential Center on Chicago’s South Side and preparing for life as empty nesters. However, as a former Illinois legislator, a United States Senator from Illinois, and then President of the United States, Barack Obama is perhaps the most prominent Illinois politician since Abraham Lincoln. And what better way is there to show appreciation for our homegrown leaders and influencers than naming highways after them?
A few weeks ago, state Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, submitted a resolution to have the entirety of Interstate 294 named after President Obama. However, in the same week, state Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, indicated that he was moving to submit legislation that would rename much of Interstate 55 that passes through Illinois as the “Barack Obama Expressway.” The moves in Springfield led to chatter in the press and elsewhere about how to honor President Obama and his legacy.
However well intentioned state leaders are in wanting to rename highways after the hometown hero, the move can prove problematic. There are unintended consequences to affixing the president’s name to a tollway, particularly during a time where the partisan divide has grown so deep and the role of government so often challenged. Is renaming an Illinois tollway after Obama the best way to truly honor the president?