Eyes on the Street: A Wild Night for Chicago’s Public Spaces

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Blackhawks fans fill the Clark/Sheffield/Newport intersection. Photo: John Greenfield

Whether you’re a rabid Blackhawks fan or couldn’t care less about professional sports, Monday night was an unforgettable evening on the streets of Chicago — and on its newest bike and pedestrian paths.

The torrential rains wreaked havoc with the transportation network, flooding streets and viaducts all over the city, and forcing the closures of a section of the Eisenhower Expressway and some Kennedy Expressway offramps, DNAinfo reported. The CTA also temporarily shut down service on the Blue Line between Harlem and Forest Park in the western suburbs.

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The soggy 606. Photo by Instagram user blipsman.

The severe weather also took its toll on the city’s newest places for walking and biking, the Bloomingdale Trail, aka The 606, and the new Chicago Riverwalk sections, both of which opened within the last month. The elevated greenway was swamped with rain last night, and neighbors told DNA they feared runoff from the trail was doing damage to their homes. However, the path was largely dry by this morning.

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Flooded walkway around the State Street bridge house. Photo: John Greenfield

It looks likes it’s going to be a longer cleanup process for the riverwalk. Just yesterday afternoon, when I checked out the newest section, dubbed The River Theater, it was a sparkling new jewel in Chicago’s collection of world-class public spaces. Sadly, when I dropped by on my way home in the early evening, the walkways around the bridge houses were completely flooded, and The River Theater, The Cove, and The Marina were caked with foul-smelling muck.

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Workers start cleaning up the mess at The River Theater. Photo: John Greenfield

Workers were already out assessing the damage last night. “The Riverwalk is designed to withstand high water,” Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Claffey told me earlier today. “That said, we are out there and beginning the cleanup this morning.”

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A block of Hubbard in River North was pedestrianized after the Hawks won the cup. Photo: John Greenfield

On a more positive note, in the wake of the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup victory, several streets were pedestrianized to make room for thousands of revelers. Madison in front of the United Center was closed to car traffic, as was a block of Hubbard between State and Dearborn in River North, by the Active Transportation Alliances offices.

In Lakeview, police pedestrianized a full mile of Clark between Belmont and Grace to make room for the massive crowds of mostly peaceful celebrants. While throngs of drunken hockey fans jamming the streets might not be everybody’s idea of a good time, it was refreshing to see the public way filled with people, rather than cars, for a change.

  • BlueFairlane

    Yesterday was an unusual, once-a-year-or-so storm, but I do think it suggests a certain lack of forethought when it comes to drainage in the design of the Bloomingdale Trail. Water has already cut a number of increasingly deep channels in the soil all along the trail’s length. Some of the steeper berms are showing signs of slipping, and there are a couple of points where I think the pavement’s in danger of being undermined. And I suspect that low dip around Kimball is doomed to flood any time we get any significant rain at all. I think there’s some work that needs to be done.

  • It may be that erosion won’t be as much of an issue once all the landscaping is in place.

  • BlueFairlane

    Landscaping will help to a point, but there won’t be enough vegetation here to solve the problem all by itself, especially along the steeper slopes like what you have at the exits. You still need to direct the flow away from the trail in some controlled way, or the runoff will just take the landscaping with it. And landscaping won’t do anything at all for that dip at Kimball, as the problem there is a lack of any outflow, at least from what I can see. You can tell by watermarks on the steel barrier on the trail’s north side that water was a little over a foot deep yesterday in the basin the trail forms there. Water’s always going to pond there on rainy days or when snow’s melting with the current arrangement.

  • nocomment

    Regarding the runoff issue; I was definitely surprised to see the amount of paved area on the 606 which would contribute to large amounts of stormwater runoff / flooding rather than something permeable which would absorb it. Can’t find any indication online that the paving is porous or permeable, so I may be totally off…

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