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In 1909 Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett produced a long-range plan for the development of Chicago, which included Wacker Drive, a two-level street alongside the Chicago River circling approximately two-thirds of the Loop.

Columns and decks that were rehabilitated in the 1970s were, by the mid-90s, beyond repair, and design and engineering for total replacement were started.

During the planning phase, several challenging goals were outlined for the project.