Chicago’s First Transportation Commissioner, LaPlante, Dies at 80

ASCE Life Member John LaPlante, the first transportation commissioner of Chicago and a past T.Y. Lin manager, has died at 80 from complications of the COVID-19 coronavirus.


LaPlante, P.E., F.ASCE, served the city for 30 years in a variety of transportation engineering positions. During his tenure, LaPlante was known for a redesign that straightened Lake Shore Drive’s treacherous “Z curve” and as a proponent of bicycle lanes and “complete streets.” Eventually becoming Department of Public Works acting commissioner, LaPlante retained that title when the department was restructured in 1992.

LaPlante’s death marks “a turning point in the transportation life of our city,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “He was a passionate public servant who helped bring CDOT to life nearly three decades ago.”

After leaving the department, LaPlante worked for many years in T.Y. Lin’s Chicago office. He retired in 2015 as director of traffic engineering.

LaPlante was principal author of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ AASHTO Pedestrian Guide. He received the Theodore M. Matson Memorial Award from the Institute of Transportation Engineers in 2010.

In tribute, the T.Y. Lin firm recalled LaPlante as “an incredible engineer who made the world a safer place.”

The Chicago native earned his engineering degrees at the Illinois Institute of Technology and Northwestern University. He became an ASCE Fellow in 1996 and a Life Member in 2004. He is survived by a wife, daughter and two grandchildren.


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