Today’s Headlines

  • Stormy Lake Scours Away Chunks Of Lakefront Trail Along Gold Coast (Chainlink)
  • Trail Closed Between Oak, Fullerton; Repairs Begin Today (DNA)
  • Divvy Employees Petition Feds to Recognize Labor Union (Crain’s)
  • Election Day Tomorrow; CNT Says Gubernatorial Campaigns Have Neglected Transit
  • Belmont Bypass’ Immediate Neighbors Slam Outreach, Will Vote On Keeping Bottleneck (DNA)
  • Irving-Austin Business District To Get Better Crosswalks, Wider Sidewalks (DNA)
  • Random Screening Of CTA Passengers’ Bags Begins Today (Columbia Chronicle)
  • So Long, ‘Boeing Bicentennials’: CTA Retires Last of 2400-Series Rail Cars (CBS)
  • Kamin: Overhaul “Dialing Down [Navy] Pier’s Generic Commercialism” (Trib)
  • Giant Crowd Gathers To Watch Man Walking In Downtown Chicago (Voice of America)
  • Take A Moment To Admire Fall Foliage In Grant Park (LGRAB)

Read national headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • It’s a little misleading to say that residents will vote to keep the bottleneck if they think CTA hasn’t been transparent enough. At one time, people protesting highways through their neighborhoods would have said the same.

  • Fred

    re: LFT – With climate change, this is only going to keep happening more and more often. I hope the city comes up with a long term plan to address this.

  • BlueFairlane

    Here’s a fun bit of irony. Thanks largely to last winter’s polar vortices (which kept the lake surface frozen longer and lessened the effect of evaporation), the lake is currently higher than it’s been in at least 15 years, and isn’t that far from its historic high*. It’s something like two feet higher than it was when the remnants of Hurricane Sandy hit a couple of years ago, and the extra height amplified the waves to levels I haven’t seen in the decade I’ve lived here.

    Who knows how climate change will ultimately affect lake levels. There’s still a lot of debate over that, though most models I’ve seen lean toward the Midwest growing drier. It’s probable we’ll see more and more storms like this one, but I suspect lake levels will follow the longer trend that seemed to be emerging before last winter and will fall precipitously. If they don’t, though, I doubt there’s much engineering could do to keep the LFT in place.

    *–And by “historic” I mean since the start of modern record keeping. The lake was a good hundred feet higher than its current level 7,000 or so years ago.

  • Anne A

    The last time I saw lake levels like this was back in the mid 1980s, when some north side lakefront buildings were having problems with water infiltration due to impact from crashing waves, and cars parked within 1/2 block of the lake sometimes became entombed in ice from the those same waves.

    If you’ve ever noticed signs on E-W streets east of Sheridan warning of this and wondered why, that’s the reason – good reason for caution in locations like this once we get into real winter conditions.
    https://www.google.com/maps/place/1200+W+Jarvis+Ave,+Chicago,+IL+60626/@42.0161082,-87.6633003,3a,75y,90h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sq0P0VTejWUiW545zEP7aOA!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x880fd0535d5a736b:0x22ac0f0c644f82f6!6m1!1e1

  • Fred

    Increasing physical separation between the water and the LFT/LSD seems like a good start. Softening the transition between water and seawall would also help.

    Obviously, if lake levels continue to rise, more drastic measures would be necessary.

  • BlueFairlane

    The work planned for the area around Fullerton will make a big difference, though you still have to plan for anything along the new shoreline to take damage. I don’t know that you accomplish much softening the wall, though. That wave energy is either going to spend itself crashing against a barrier or pushing water far inland.

    Ultimately, if this were to turn out to be an increasing problem over the long term and you didn’t want to have to keep rebuilding things, you have to build that physical separation you mention. You have to create something that amounts to a shoreline crumple zone.

  • BlueFairlane

    You know, I’ve seen those signs and always thought they were kind of silly. It never occurred to me that a higher lake would mean they were a real thing.

  • skyrefuge

    It’s actually a pretty nice real-world experiment in “softening the transition between water and seawall” that we’ve been able to witness at the northernmost section of North Avenue Beach near Fullerton. Of the six beach “sections” between Fullerton and North, the northernmost one never formed, and that’s why that section lost some asphalt in this storm, and became impassable in winter (and that’s why the Army Corps is redoing that whole area). Whereas the other five sections resulted in piles of sand on the trail, but that’s presumably easier to “fix” than missing asphalt (I’m making an assumption that the asphalt under that sand stayed intact).

    So for the section between North and Oak, maybe they could just stick a bunch more of those beach-creating arms out into the lake? It doesn’t seem like those would cost too much money, and it would create a whole bunch more beach space too.

  • Fred

    Things like giant boulders can absorb and redirect wave energy so that it isn’t slamming unabated against a vertical concrete wall with nowhere to go other than up.

    I agree. The entire shoreline should be designed to take the brunt of weather like this with minimal damage.

  • BlueFairlane

    To anthropomorphize for a minute, boulders are essentially what the lake is trying to turn the vertical walls into.

    A big pile of boulders in front of the walls on either side of Oak Street Beach would help protect the wall, though I think you’d still see the scouring effect on the pavement along the trail there during a storm like this one. The only thing that will really solve that is increased distance from the lake, or else a pile of boulders taller than anybody wants.

  • Social_werkk

    I hope the Divvy employees are successful in their efforts to unionize. Kudos for them for fighting the good fight.

  • jeff wegerson

    Re Random Screening: So what sorts of things might cause false positives for the swabbing
    that the TSA (or whoever is really behind this) will be doing at CTA
    stations? I would hate to be pulled aside for a false positive. I hope
    they provide a list of things that might cause a false positive.

  • Anne A

    To anyone who has only seen Lake Michigan at its very low water levels of recent years, I can understand why those would seem silly. Back then when water levels were high enough for winter storms with strong north winds to send waves crashing 2-3 stories high along the east side of lakefront condo buildings,1/2 block or more of those E-W streets could sometimes end up as one big sheet of ice, encasing sidewalks, cars, trees, light poles, etc. Yeah, it was the real deal.

  • BlueFairlane

    It does make you think twice about taking CTA next July 5th.

  • skyrefuge

    When I told my parents about the LFP damage, the first thing they mentioned was the flooding of the north lakefront condos (in the context of “it’s an act of human hubris and short memory to build things so close to water”). So yeah, this must have been quite the thing in the mid 80s.

  • jeff wegerson

    That north section had sand in it during the 70’s.

  • Anne A

    To give an example, the condo buildings at Sheridan & Ardmore (N end of lakefront path), which are normally protected by a fairly wide beach, were among those that had waves crashing 2-3 stories high on their eastern sides and had water infiltration. Look at the map link to get a sense of how much of the beach was underwater for this to happen..
    https://www.google.com/maps/place/5757+N+Sheridan+Rd,+Chicago,+IL+60660/@41.9850134,-87.6539172,16z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x880fd177704f5491:0xfeafe51a01a27b2a

  • Anne A
  • jeff wegerson

    The lake just passed the midway point last month. But yes the rise has been rapid from a record low average about two years ago to passing the midway point now. The record high was 1987. That’s when they realized they needed to spend billions? to shore up the shore like around Belmont harbor. And that’s also when the Hyde Park point wars began to keep as much of the stone blocks in place as possible down there.

    As near as I can tell they did not actually close the drive this time just narrowed it down to one lane north. In 87 north bound was closed totally. Both above North Avenue and also around Diversy as the water cascaded on to the grass then flowed onto LSD.

    Also North Sheridan Road around Thorndale might have been closed as well as at Rosemont.

    Ah the good ole days.

  • jeff wegerson
  • skyrefuge

    I’ll take your word for it, but note that http://www.historicaerials.com/aerials.php?scale=2000&lon=-87.631186627317&lat=41.926161752521&year=1973 shows it empty for every year they have, including 1952, 1973, and 1988 (and it’s interesting to see how the size of the exposed sand varies with the lake-level; 1952 and 1973 had near-record water levels, which is particularly obvious in the thin 1952 beaches).

  • BlueFairlane

    I have to say, I don’t want to see anybody suffer property damage, but that ’87 storm would be something to see. Regardless of all the damage, the lake really is an awesome sight sometimes.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    On the recently completed shore/embankment from Diversey to Belmont, there used to be extremely large chunks of cement to bolster the shoreline. This (along with the cleanup at the former gun club) took about 5 years to replace.

  • Coolebra

    It would also be interesting to see a natural resources perspective on actions taken that decrease wave activity. Waves provide ecosystem services, including shaping currents, nutrient distribution, etc.

    Current water level trend aside (a “remarkable” return to average), the long-term forecast continues to be diminishing lake levels, not increasing. Solutions for average lake levels should consider the projected trend, as well as any potential unintended consequences.

    Let’s not forget, the Army Corps of Engineers channelized and dammed a lot of rivers. We’re still trying to straighten out (no pun intended) the consequences of some of those actions. Like highway engineers built superhighways through cities, the Corps has engineered our rivers. This is not to say everything they’ve done is bad, only that experience tells us the solutions are engineered using tools and techniques that do not necessarily account for the full range of benefits and impacts.

    http://www.glerl.noaa.gov/pubs/brochures/lakelevels/lakelevels.pdf

  • I have a friend who does model rocketry as a hobby. She has to keep one pair of “shooting shoes” that she wears at the site and takes off before getting into her car, because otherwise the nitrates transfer to the pedals and then to her street shoes and then she gets stopped at the airport for “explosives”.

  • In 87 the shrieks from residents of Lake Point Tower (and all the beach-adjacent properties up closer to Rogers Park) were loud and echoing. The city was kind of shrugging like, “Um, it’s the lake, what do you want us to do? You’re the one whose house’s foundations are a sheer drop to where the beach used to be …”

  • jose gonzalez

    those beach-creating arms out into the lake? its actually called a jetty. That would cause more erosion on one side than the other. Sure, there’d be more beach space, but only on the side facing the longshore current

  • Better yet, those are called “groins,” and I hear extending them has become quite popular… A jetty is a seawall placed perpendicular to shore and parallel to an inlet, e.g., the mouth of the Chicago River.

  • skyrefuge

    All the discussion led me to what surely must be the most-complete discussion of the politics and engineering and geology of the Chicago-area shoreline ever written, 10 billion words from The Reader in 1987: http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/on-the-beach/Content?oid=870661

    One of the most relevant sections, 8 billion words in:

    And as Shabica puts it, “Soft-shore technologies only work when there is something soft already.” Along much of the North Shore, offshore slopes remain fairly gentle, while the Chicago shore has, Shabica says, “gone past that point.” Kakuris agrees. “The shore in Chicago is so overdeveloped, so urban. Adding structures like groins ordinarily would not be acceptable, but here the damage has already been done.”

    Chicago’s lakefront custodians for decades have thus planned according to a rule borrowed from criminal law, namely that you can’t kill a dead man. Indeed, the point of most of their work has been to dress up the corpse. The stepladder series of beaches between North Avenue and Fullerton, for instance, consists of “perched” beaches, so called because their sand is held up above the waterline in what amounts to a series of giant sandboxes formed by sand-containing groins on the sides and walls of sheet steel sunk into the water.

    That’s right. A son of a beach. The perched beach technology was developed by the Park District in response to the loss of naturally replenishing drift material some 25 years ago. It is a technologically admirable adaptation to a bad situation.”

  • Thank you so much for linking that. *deep-dives*

  • jeff wegerson

    It’s possible I remember it wrong. It’s possible that it was the late 60’s I’m remembering. Here’s the record of all the lake levels but to the beginning of records.

    http://www.glerl.noaa.gov/data/dashboard/GLWLD.html

  • Big Buck Hunter

    Just what this town needs, another public union to gouge the taxpayer

  • Unions are the only things ever proven effective at keeping a job sustainable (reasonable working conditions, non-abusive boss interactions, a wage commensurate to the work performed).

  • Big Buck Hunter

    What is a wage commensurate to the work performed? Divvy loses small amounts of money, so obviously the workers are already getting too much value

  • Don’t let the tabloid press find out about this, lest we be inundated with cringe-worthy headlines.