Western Avenue (Chicago)
|Length||27.38 mi (44.06 km)|
|Location||Park Forest, Olympia Fields, Dixmoor, Blue Island, Chicago|
|North end||Howard Street (7600 N) at the Chicago/Evanston border|
|South end||County Line Road (32700 S) in Will Township, at the Will / Kankakee County border|
Western Avenue is the longest continuous street within the city of Chicago at 23.5 miles (37.82 km) in length. Western Avenue extends south as a continuous road to the Dixie Highway at Sibley Boulevard (Illinois Route 83) in Dixmoor, giving the road a total length of 27.38 miles (44.06 km). However, Western Avenue extends intermittently through the Southland to the Will / Kankakee county border in unincorporated Will Township. Within Chicago's grid street system, Western Avenue is 2400 West.
Western Avenue becomes Asbury Avenue at Howard Street at the Chicago/Evanston border and continues north to Isabella Street on the Evanston/Wilmette border. Unlike Pulaski Road (Chicago) which was originally Crawford Avenue in both the city and suburbs, Western was always the name in the city. Asbury is only used in Evanston.
From 1851 to 1869, Western Avenue delineated the western edge of the city of Chicago. Being at the edge of town, it became a picnic spot, and Riverview Park was built at the intersection of Western and Belmont Avenues. The amusement park remained open from 1904 until 1967. The park's property is now home to the Riverview Plaza shopping center, the Belmont District Chicago Police Station, and DeVry University.
Western Avenue is serviced by many CTA buses and trains. The street is serviced by the Brown Line, Orange Line, Pink Line, two times by the Blue Line on the O'Hare and Forest Park branches, and twice by Metra's commuter lines. There are three CTA buses that run along Western Avenue. The main bus route along Western Avenue is the 49 Western, which runs 24 hours a day from Berwyn Avenue on the North Side to 79th Street on the South Side. The 49B North Western runs from Howard Street at the city's northern border to Leland Avenue, where it connects to the Brown Line. There is also the 48 South Damen bus route that runs on Western from 87th Street in Chicago to 98th Street in south suburban Evergreen Park. However, this bus route only provides weekday rush hour service along a portion of the #349 South Western Avenue bus route, which is operated by Pace and has completely replaced CTA service on the former 49A South Western route. This route runs from 79th Street in Chicago to the Pace Transportation Center in south suburban Harvey, Illinois. Western Avenue is also the location of multiple stations of the Metra commuter rail network, on the BNSF Railway Line at (18th & Western), the Milwaukee District/North Line and Milwaukee District/West Line on Artesian near Grand, with the Vermont Street Station of the Rock Island District a few blocks east of Western Ave. in Blue Island.
South Side Irish Parade
Western Avenue also played host to the South Side Irish Parade. Held yearly on the Sunday before St. Patrick's Day, along Western between 103rd and 115th Street in the Beverly and Morgan Park neighborhoods, it was the city's largest neighborhood parade, drawing hundreds of thousands of revelers annually.
The parade was canceled after the 2009 event due to a growing number of public intoxication arrests. There continues to be an annual Irish Festival, to replace the initially family-oriented parade. In 2012, the parade returned.
Chicagoland Toys for Tots Motorcycle Parade
Since 1979, Western Avenue has been the venue for what is billed as the largest motorcycle parade in the world. On the first Sunday of December each year, thousands of motorcyclists assemble at the Dan Ryan Woods Forest Preserve at 87th Street and Western Avenue, bringing new, unwrapped toys for donation to the Toys for Tots charity. The parade drives north to deposit toys at Lane Tech at Addison Street, a distance of over fifteen miles. From 1979 through 2008, the parade instead continued north to deliver the toys to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve station on Foster Avenue, a total distance in excess of eighteen miles.