Yet Another Sidewalk Closure Forces Pedestrians Into the Street

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Pedestrians waiting for the walk signal at the northwest corner of Roosevelt/Canal on Friday. They were in danger of being struck by turning motorists. Photo: John Greenfield

Recently, Steven Vance wrote about how curb ramp construction along Fullerton in Logan Square was forcing pedestrians off of the sidewalk and into the street. Last week, Streetsblog reader Brian Sobolak alerted us to a similar issue, at the busy intersection of Roosevelt and Canal in the South Loop, near several shopping centers.

The sidewalk at the northwest corner of this intersection had been excavated and barricaded, and signs were posted announcing that the sidewalk was closed. However, there were no pedestrian accommodations. “There are lots of signs for where cars can go, but nothing for pedestrians,” Sobolak wrote. “They are forced to wait in the street.”

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The intersection, earlier in the week. Photo: Brian Sobolak

I sent a heads-up about the problem to Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Pete Scales, who put me in touch with his counterpart at the Department of Water Management, Gary Litherland. Last Thursday, Litherland told me that DWM recently put in a water main at the location, and that contractor Benchmark Construction was redoing the sidewalk and wheelchair ramps prior to street repaving. “However, this does look like a bit of a mess as far as pedestrians are concerned,” he said.

Litherland said he’d alerted the project’s resident engineer about the issue and asked if something could be done to better accommodate people on foot . “It’s a congested area,” he told me. “But we will be doing everything we can to make this a safer intersection for pedestrians, and drivers as well.” He said he hoped that the engineer would address the problem the next day.

It rained heavily Thursday night, and when I dropped by the site in person late Friday afternoon, I saw that Benchmark had covered the wooden boards on the perimeter of the corner with tarps. Otherwise, nothing had changed. People on foot still had to do a wide detour around the construction to access the northwest corner. Those crossing from that corner to the northeast and southwest sides of the intersection waited for the walk signal in the street, where they were endangered by turning motorists.

I called Litherland with an update. “We will do what we can to make it safer for everyone,” he told me. He said he hoped that the construction would be finished over the weekend, which would eliminate the problem.

CDOT’s “Rules and Regulations for Construction in the Public Way” dictate that, when a construction project blocks access to a sidewalk or transit stop, the contractor must provide a safe route for pedestrians, on the same side of the street. “Pedestrians should not be led into conflict with vehicles, equipment, and operations around the work site,” the document states.

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A senior detours around the construction while crossing from the southwest corner to the northwest on Friday. Photo: John Greenfield

It would have been simple for Benchmark to avoid leading pedestrians into conflict with vehicles at Roosevelt/Canal. They could have simply set down Jersey barriers to create a protected walkway around the corner. Sure, this would have caused a slight inconvenience for drivers, who would have had to navigate around the barriers. But that’s a minor drawback for the city, compared to the possibility of a lawsuit if a pedestrian is injured or killed due to the unsafe conditions.

Have you noticed any other locations where contractors have failed to accommodate walking? Let us know.

Updated on October 6, 5 p.m.:

According to Litherland, Benchmark poured the concrete today, and the northwest corner of Roosevelt/Canal should be reopened to pedestrians in the next day or two.

  • Anne A

    I’ve got another example here: https://twitter.com/aka60643/status/519190528974655488

    Contractor is replacing sidewalk on both 95th St. and Damen sides of corner lot. 95th St. sidewalk is walkable up to that point, with no warning signage at other end of block. Walking through parking lot behind building really isn’t an option, because sidewalk trench on Damen side is deeper and muddier. Shot this on Saturday afternoon as mother and daughter walked towards the public library. Avoiding this mess “legally” would have involved a dangerous uncontrolled crossing of 95th St. at the previous intersection, waiting at a stoplight and crossing Damen, then waiting at a LONG light to cross 95th St. again.

    They faced a choice between walking ON 95th St. against traffic or walking through the torn up sidewalk area full of mud and crushed stone. They chose the latter, the safest option. How messed up is that?

  • ImWalkinHere

    Same thing happened at Clark/Polk recently when a new sidewalk was being constructed. I believe that work is done (or finishing up early this week), however, so pedestrian safety may no longer be an issue.

  • JacobEPeters

    As anything been done on Milwaukee where the new Northwestern Medical building is being built? I saw a sign that said Bike Lane closed, but no space was delineated for pedestrians to detour where the sidewalk was closed.

  • It’s been chewed up since at least the middle of September.

  • FP_J

    As far as I can tell, this is standard practice for the ADA curb ramp replacement program everywhere except for the loop. In fact, I’ve never seen pedestrian accommodation for this kind of work in the Lakeview area over the last 6 years.

    I’m certainly not saying it is justified or legal, but it has been consistently going on for years.

  • On the west side of Ashland at Byron Street, both the north and south corners are blocked off to pedestrians for sidewalk work. I had to wait in the street to cross Ashland this morning.

  • A bike lane that doesn’t exist cannot be closed. There’s not a bike lane here, and there never has been, to my knowledge.

  • JacobEPeters

    I never said there was, I was pointing out that the signage on Milwaukee is very puzzling, and pretty useless regarding that sidewalk closure.

  • EDG

    I saw a lot of this on a recent trip to Milan. If the street itself is small, you can comfortably walk into it. This doesn’t look like a very safe intersection, anyways.

  • Jim

    Most people don’t have a problem and can figure out a way to navigate. Funny that you would waste so much time on this. You act like people can’t figure out how to get across a street.

  • When I first moved here from NYC 12 years ago, this was one of the most shocking things about Chicago. No one followed the law about pedestrian accommodation at construction sites. I think the problem is lack of both political will and intergovernmental coordination. It should not still be going on.

  • Ryan Wallace

    These sites are not the exception but rather the standard. It appears the general feeling is to try to get the work done as soon as possible, rather than provide any real accommodations. The key person in this chain is the resident engineer. They often have to have a give and take relationship with the contractor to get things done correctly. More often then not the RE doesn’t have any real incentive to push the contractor to provide pedestrian accommodations.

  • blueducttape

    Armitage was the same way from Western to the Kennedy. They’ve moved on to resurfacing now and the sidewalk is back open.

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