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Too cold outside? Take the pedway.

  • Pedestrians walk the Chicago pedway beneath Randolph Street in December.
Pedestrians walk the Chicago pedway beneath Randolph Street in December. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago…)
January 27, 2014|By Leonor Vivanco, @lvivanco | RedEye

It's just too damn cold to be outside.

That's why many Chicagoans use the pedway system downtown during the workweek. They'll walk through a maze of underground tunnels and overhead bridges to shield themselves from the subzero temps.

The pedway connects to more than 50 buildings so workers can walk from the CTA's Washington Street train stop, Metra's Millennium station and underground parking garages near Grant Park to places including the government offices at the Daley and Thompson centers, Macy's and Block 37 shops, food courts, hotels by the river and Wacker Drive, and offices at the Prudential and Aon buildings.

Here's a cool, interactive graphic by DNAInfo on spots to eat, drink and shop in the pedway.

While the city's website said development of the pedway began in 1951 when one-block tunnels connecting subway stops at Washington Street and Jackson Boulevard were built, Amanda Scotese, founder of Chicago Detours, which provides a pedway map, said it may have been even earlier.

She points to the old transfer point built in 1939 to 1943 at the CTA Jackson train station at State and Dearborn as the oldest stretch of the pedway.

From that point, the pedway has constantly evolved as new buildings were constructed, such as the modernist architecture civic center built in the 1960s, she said. The pedway connects the Daley Center to City Hall to the Cook County administrative offices.

More recently, the pedway was expanded with the completion in 2011 of Aqua at Lakeshore East.

Yet, some parts are still not connected to other pedway routes.

“When people look at it, it makes no sense. There never was a grand master plan,” Scotese said.

But it has character from barber shops to the express office of the Secretary of State and from the stained-glass windows by the Macy's passageway to the Grant Park replica of the Art Nouveau Paris Metro Station.

Even though it's free to use the pedway to escape the windy winter weather and dodge car and bike traffic, it can still intimidate people. That could be because people are hesitant to go into buildings not clearly labeled as shops, restaurants or cultural spaces, Scotese said. That's why she added access points on the pedway map.

Some may be afraid of getting lost underground as the pedway isn't always clearly labeled with the blue and gold compass logo or brightly lit in some spots. It's not a grid system. There are no visible landmarks like above ground so it's easy to get disoriented, she said.

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