Travel Before Traction

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The Illinois Traction System came of age when roads between commmunities were no better than the wagon trails forged in the state's earliest days. The Midwest's relatively flat countryside created the perfect setting for thse new electric interurbans to thrive.

The System help a competetive advantage over automobiles until 1918. That year Illinois voters approved a sisty million dollar statewide road improvement bond referendum and followed it with another massive bond approval on November 4, 1924.

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The Illinois Traction ran in all weather and connected passengers and freight between rural and large communities, even in the most challenging conditions.


This map shows the planned highway system up for a vote in the 1918 Illinois referendum.

During his term between 1921 and 1929, Governor Len Small of Kankakee became known as the "Good Road Governor" because Illinois constructed more than 7,000 miles of concrete roads. Illinois led the nation in road building during this time.
While the electric rail initially bound the state together, the growing miles of concrete roads began to overtake the Traction's appeal.

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Route 45 north of Urbana after road improvements.

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Hundreds of miles of new concrete roads were laid paralleling the ITS resulting in direct competition for the rail line.