In an effort to build on 2018’s record-setting year for tourism, the City of Chicago has announced plans for a new attraction: A glass-enclosed pedestrian tube running underneath the Chicago River.
Speaking to reporters at his Ravenswood estate Sunday, outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans for The Deep Six, a transparent tube running down the center of the Chicago River’s main channel from the Michigan Avenue Bridge to Wolf Point.
The mayor explained, “For decades, the city has ignored its written, codified obligation to expand the downtown pedway network. This rights that wrong, while at the same time increases tax revenue from both adjacent property owners, and the fleecing of the sort of people who think it’s O.K. to wear pajamas on Southwest Airlines.”
The pedway is Chicago’s 68-year-old system of underground tunnels linking 40 blocks of its downtown Loop district. While the city has ordinances that encourage the expansion and improvement the network, progress has been stymied by developers ignoring their obligations, and the city turning a blind eye to enforcement.
Other cities, like London, have pedestrian tunnels beneath their rivers, but none offer a see-through experience.
Inspired by the success of The Mob Museum in Las Vegas, visitors to The Deep Six will be greeted by an animatronic Luca Brasi inviting pedestrians to “Step with the fishes.” Free admission will be granted to anyone under the age of 12 who can repeat “toy boat” ten times fast.
During the three-quarter mile promenade, people will be able to look through the glass tube that surrounds them to see such sites as boats passing above, CDOT’s abandoned LaSalle Street tunnel, and a discarded 1972 Buick Skylark.
The Deep Six will be divided into a series of “rooms,” similar to the way The Chicago Riverwalk above is sectioned into themed areas.
In the Civic Duty Room, an interactive exhibit will allow visitors to push buttons on an interpretive panel to illuminate piles of submerged ballot boxes from their favorite election. Be sure to keep an eye out for the votes from 1968, containing perhaps the nation’s most complete set of pro-Nixon ballots — in pristine, un-counted condition. Also note the space already reserved for the dumping of ballots from tomorrow’s Chicago mayoral runoff election.
In the Cicero Room, children will learn how cement shoes are made, and the best time of year to throw your hobbled foes into the water. Too close to winter, and the body won’t decompose. Too close to summer, and it could pop up again!
In the Great Chicago Flood Room, sponsored by The Chicago History Museum, an exhibit will tell the story of that April day in 1992 when an underwater portion of the city’s disused freight tunnel system was breached, delivering startled river fish to the newly flooded basements of buildings from Merchandise Mart to the Chicago Board of Trade. An adjacent play area will allow children to plug a virtual dike by stuffing a leaking hole in the tube with surplus Marshall Field’s shopping bags.
Another interactive experience awaits visitors in the Evolution Room, sponsored by the Field Museum. There, people will be given night vision goggles so they can try to see any fish that might have been accidentally flushed into the river from Lake Michigan. If a fish is spotted, the visitor will be able to press a button to deliver a light electrical shock to the fish, which will then be collected when it floats to the surface. Prizes will be awarded each day for the most mutated specimen recovered.
City leaders plan to enact new ordinances to keep the attraction family-friendly. First, all passengers wearing skirts on Chicago river tour boats will now be required to also wear underwear. Also, since the tube is technically public space because of its connection to the pedway, any homeless people who move in will be required to dress as pirates.
Special interest groups wasted no time organizing their opposition to Mayor Emanuel’s plan.
Friends of the Arks lamented the potential disturbance of abandoned Biblical shipwrecks, and immediately filed suit in federal court to block construction. It did, however, agree to withdraw the suit if the tube was relocated to the South Side.
Seniors Organized to Reject Everything (SORE) panned the idea as a boondoggle that fails to provide adequate parking, will ruin their views of rusty hubcaps, and predicted it will lead to gridlock beneath an already congested river. It called the underwater tourist attraction just another opportunity for the mayor to leave his legacy imprinted on the city before leaving office.
Mr. Emanuel rejects such claims, saying the dozens of infrastructure projects that suddenly appeared in the weeks after he announced he would not seek re-election are merely coincidence.
“Just as The 606 allowed us to gentrify stubbornly authentic neighborhoods on the North Side, The Deep Six will allow us to transform this great city’s last unexploited downtown space — the space beneath its river.”