CHICAGO (CBS) — John LaPlante, the first commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, has died after falling ill with the coronavirus.

LaPlante served 30 years in transportation engineering positions with the City of Chicago – including Chief Traffic Engineer. In that role, he helped redesign the infamous Z-curve on Lake Shore Drive at Wacker Drive downtown into a smoother curve, published reports noted.

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John LaPlante

John LaPlante (Credit: IIT)

LaPlante went on to serve as acting commissioner of the Department of Public Works, and became acting commissioner of the Department of Transportation when it was created in 1992.

Shortly afterward, LaPlante was forced to resign in the aftermath of the Great Chicago Flood of April 1992, when a hole sent water from the Chicago River into a network of utility tunnels and left basements throughout the Loop flooded.

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There were claims at the time that he had known about the potential leak and had waiting for a reasonable repair estimate when the flood happened, but many questioned whether LaPlante deserved to be held responsible for the flood.

On Twitter, CDOT remembered LaPlante as a “dedicated, longtime public servant.”

After leaving Chicago city government, LaPlante went on to a long career with the engineering services firm T.Y Lin International. The website for the firm said he had most recently served as director of traffic engineering.

LaPlante was also a longtime member of the Evanston Unitarian Church, where he was known for co-hosting the “Sing Thing” folk music circle on weekday nights.

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LaPlante was 80 years old.