Last week, city and state planners opened a call to the public to suggest potential elements for the North Lake Shore Drive reconstruction study, which they’re call “Redefine the Drive.” Almost a year ago, the Illinois and Chicago Departments of Transportation hosted a series of public meetings to gauge public support and solicit volunteers to join task forces that would guide the study.
Planners at this second meeting, which was held at the Drake Hotel and within walking distance of thousands of Drive residents, hoped to introduce attendees to the project’s latest purpose and needs statement (essentially a mission statement for the project), while also asking Chicagoans to pipe up with their own ideas and solutions for the corridor.
Jeff Sriver, a project manager at the Chicago Department of Transportation, described the meeting as the beginning of the “solution generation stage.” Its purpose was to “get input on solutions, whether they’re corridor wide, or at specific locations.” Afterwards, he said, they’ll classify the solutions, and compare them to the stated problems to see if each potential solution addresses an identified problem.
As for specific alternatives, Jeff said simply that “everything’s on the table from now on.” From here on out, future task force meetings will discuss the solutions gathered in this phase. Sriver said that it’ll be their job to “say what stays on the table, before the design team may try to take it off the table.”
Residents at the meeting suggested numerous alternatives, some grandiose and some more workaday, ranging from double-decking the roadway for more car capacity to constructing a separate cycletrack strictly for speedy bicycle commuters. Other ideas that have been tossed around include transforming NLSD into a multiway boulevard, creating dedicated transit lanes, and burying and straightening out the Oak Street Curve.
All of these ideas vary in practicality, cost, and usefulness, and IDOT has promised to review all of them. That said, some will be swiftly eliminated after a Task Force consultation, in an effort to speed up the process.
The Active Transportation Alliance also weighed in on the meeting with a statement, saying that “today’s Open House provided opportunity for Chicagoans to voice their support for a bold vision for the reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive.” Currently, the group’s top priorities include the separation of transit from automobile traffic, adding a separate higher-speed bike path to improve safety and convenience, and more lakefront access points, with redesigned roadway connections that provide a more seamless park experience.
Active Trans is also urging the city and Park District to make improvements now, such as installing “pavement markings to the trail, to separate bicyclists from pedestrians, and designating a separate trail in the most congested areas, such as between Oak Street Beach and Fullerton.”
The NLSD study team is still looking for project feedback and ideas. Those who came to the meeting were invited to draw their ideas on paper maps, or to suggest new road and trail cross sections. Those who didn’t get a chance to attend can download and print PDF files from the Public Meetings page, and then send them in by August 1, either by mail or by emailing photos or scans of the maps. Note that each map covers a different section of the Drive’s corridor.
Planners have also created an online mapping application where you can leave your feedback, and also view what others have said about the corridor. To use it, click anywhere on the map fill out the form in the popup, and your input will be reviewed by IDOT and CDOT.
The more IDOT is made aware of the real issues facing NLSD, the better the outcome will be — for 70,000 daily bus riders, 31,000 daily Lakefront Trail users, and all 406,842 North Siders — once shovels hit the ground.