A hundred years after the Burnham plan for Chicago was laid out, another piece that plan may become a reality. CDOT is working on a plan to make Congress Parkway in the Loop more grand, and in the process, more pedestrian-friendly.
Right now, Congress between Wells and Michigan Avenue is a big flat slab of tarmac with speeding cars and pedestrians in peril. It is a psychological divider between the pedestrian-friendly Loop and the pedestrian-friendly South Loop. But the street, itself, is something of an adventure to cross.
The CDOT plan is to make the street look more like a city street and less like an expressway. The idea is to snap drivers coming in from the Eisenhower Expressway out of their daze and make them realize that they’re in the city now and it’s time to slow down.
The ideas call for new planters, new landscaping, more trees, and changes to the pavement to make it more than obvious that there are a dozen pedestrian crossings. Changes in traffic signal timing and a reorganization of turn lanes are also in the works.
The Burnham plan envisioned Congress Parkway as a grand boulevard — a major entrance corridor to the city. This project will go a long way toward making that a reality. It also includes decorative lighting of the buildings and infrastructure in the area — a lighting scheme that could be tied into the renovated lighting coming to Buckingham Fountain.
Part of the $20 million needed for the project will come from federal congestion funds. The rest looks like it will have to be ponied up by the city.
Another goal of the project is to draw more restaurants and cafes to the Congress corridor and the residential development that frequently follows them.