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'Bat Cave' Road In Chicago Accessible To Only A Few


You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

In Chicago, there's a two-and-a-half-mile roadway that the mayor calls the Bat Cave. It's been around for more than a decade, but it's not well known. The mini-highway was designed to ferry conventioneers to Chicago's convention hall.

But as NPR's Cheryl Corley reports, some local politicians are arguing that the Bat Cave is being reserved for politicians with special clout.


CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: I'm standing at the intersection of Randolph and Michigan in downtown Chicago. And it's pretty congested, lots of traffic whizzing by.


CORLEY: But I'm going to hop in a car and head on down to the lower level of Randolph, to that road not too many people know about.

So in the corner of lower Randolph, there's a kiosk with a security guard, a big sign that says: Chicago, we're glad you're here and welcome to the McCormick Place bus way. A couple of cars have passed through the gated area. No getting stuck in traffic here.

Back on upper Randolph and Michigan, cabbie Walter Williams(ph), who's been driving a cab for 40 years, says he had no clue about the shortcut.

WALTER WILLIAMS: Oh, no, we didn't know about it, but I saw it the other day. And I saw a few cars going down there, and somebody was telling me that street is just for the mayor, right?

CORLEY: That would be Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Now, Chicago is no stranger to clout and strong mayors, so maybe a mayor gets a perk or two. But the concentration on one of the city's most obscure roads doesn't please Emanuel.

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: You know, the road when it was built, it was 2000. It was - construction was completed in 2002. So it's been opened for about 11 years. For a couple of those years, I wasn't even a resident of the city of Chicago.

CORLEY: The mayor says, yes, he's called it the Bat Cave in the past. And the Cook County board president has a nickname for it too. She calls it the Magic Road. A spokesperson for the agency that provides access to the road is Melissa Stratton. She says it's not some secret VIP roadway. It's all about making it easier for people attending tradeshows to get to the convention hall.

MELISSA STRATTON: It is primarily used by buses transporting people to the venue.

CORLEY: And public safety workers and contractors. Stratton says it's one of the draws that McCormick Place uses in its marketing. At Chicago City Hall, Alderman Bob Fioretti says despite the explanation about who gets to use the road to the convention center and why, he still calls it the Mayor's Road.

ALDERMAN BOB FIORETTI: When I ask about opening it up, the first response was, oh, no, the mayor doesn't want it. I said, well, wait a minute. We should look the other way to raising revenue but more importantly causing safety in our streets so the cabs don't go through the south loop like they do through many of the neighborhoods.

CORLEY: So Fioretti wants Chicago taxicabs to have access to the Bat Cave, too, and a toll, he says, just a dollar or two that conventioneers traveling by taxi would gladly pay to avoid traffic congestion. Fred Frazier(ph), a cabdriver for 24 years, isn't too keen on that idea.

FRED FRAZIER: No, I don't think there should be another charge. There should be no additional charge. It's a road. It should be accessible to everybody.

CORLEY: But for now, the Bat Cave or the Magic Road remains a hassle-free way to Chicago's main convention center for just a few. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.