Only a Few Days Left For You to Help Fix Lake Shore Drive

Remember the big project that CDOT and a bunch of other alphabet soup agencies were working on to make North Lake Shore Drive suck less?  It’s still going on.  In fact, you have until the end of this week to let them know what you think of their progress so far.

Potential reconfiguration of Lake Shore Drive's Oak Street Curve (Via CDOT)
Potential reconfiguration of Lake Shore Drive’s Oak Street Curve (Via CDOT)

You may remember this project as Redefine The Drive, which made a big splash a few years back with a proposal to sink Lake Shore Drive into a tube beneath Oak Street Beach.  That idea is long gone, because someone in 2020’s City Hall misread Daniel Burnham and is forging ahead with the motto “make only little plans, for nobody ever lost his job being average.”

What’s happening now is actually the final phase of the rebuilding of Lake Shore Drive that started way way back in 1995 down at the Museum Campus.   And while people may disagree about how to rebuild LSD, few argue that it’s not needed.  Most of the infrastructure is more than 80 years old.  It has 24 bridges and tunnels, a dozen junctions, and an average of three car wrecks a day.  The only thing in Chicago with more daily crashes is the WGN-TV app.

Potential reconfiguration of the intersection of Montrose Avenue and Lake Shore Drive (Via CDOT)
Potential reconfiguration of the intersection of Montrose Avenue and Lake Shore Drive (Via CDOT)

This portion of work, from Grand Avenue up to Hollywood Avenue is actually the sixth phase of the overall project.  If you’re wondering how close all of this is to finishing, right now we’re in phase 2 of 4 phases within phase 3 of 5 phases within phase 1 of 3 phases within the previously mentioned 6th phase.  While that sounds like you’ll be driving on the new Lake Shore Drive about the time Elon Musk drives the first Tesla on Mars, don’t stick your head in the oven just yet.  

Potential Lake Shore drive dynamic toll plus transitway option (Via CDOT)
Potential Lake Shore drive dynamic toll plus transitway option (Via CDOT)

To make a complex project simple (too late), here’s a list of what’s being considered:

  • General
    • More shoreline protection from the hungry hungry hippo that is Lake Michigan.
    • Extending the shoreline into Lake Michigan by 400 feet between Grand Avenue and Fullerton.
    • New intersection at Addison Street.
  • Wheels and heels
    • Individual trails for movement by wheels and by feet.
    • Wider trails.
    • Access to the lakefront every 1,300 feet.
  • Traffic
    • Somewhat straightening the Oak Street Curve.
    • Redesigning the Chicago Avenue intersection.
    • Emergency pull-off lanes, demoting traffic blocks to mere gapers blocks.
    • Toll lanes with surge pricing, so you can pay like you’re in an Uber, but still be in your own car.
  • Transit
    • Traffic lights that give buses priority.
    • Bus turnaround areas so they don’t get stuck in with the regular traffic.
    • Bus staging areas, so they don’t end up starting a run late because of traffic.
    • More east-west access through Lincoln Park for buses.
    • Dedicated transit lanes against the center median.

And here’s a list of what’s not being considered:

  • Bunging Lake Shore Drive through a tunnel so we don’t have to see all that traffic again.
  • Shoving Lake Shore Drive out into Lake Michigan, like the Illinois Central Railroad did all those years ago, redefining Chicago’s shoreline.
  • Dedicated transitways, separate from the rest of traffic.
  • Bringing back the movable barrier down the middle of the Drive so that lanes can be added or removed to meet traffic demands.

The TLAs involved have already had more public meetings about this than you have teeth.  But because of The Virus Which Must Not Be Named, those aren’t happening in person anymore.  

Instead, there’s a web site full of maps and videos, where you can thumb the ideas you like, and write stuff on an idea wall.  It sounds a lot like Facebook ten years ago.  Don’t forget your Pieces of Flare.

We’re all busy these days, so here’s a short video to bring you quickly up to speed.  And here’s a link to the web site where you can do your civic duty.

Potential reconfiguration of the intersection of Chicago Avenue and Lake Shore Drive (Via CDOT)
Potential reconfiguration of the intersection of Chicago Avenue and Lake Shore Drive (Via CDOT)

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment