Developer Proposes Better Active Transportation Access for Goose Island

Bike-ped bridge to Goose Island
R2 Companies wants to build a bike and pedestrian bridge, and published this sketch inspired by the Snake bridge in Copenhagen, from Ogden Avenue to Goose Island to bring in new workers to commercial space it plans to build.

Property developer Zack Cupkovic said he didn’t really discover Goose Island until four years ago, even though he grew up in the nearby Lakeview neighborhood. The man-made island was created in 1857, when the North Branch canal was completed on the east side of the land mass, separating it from the mainland. When you drive across the island on Division Street, Cupkovic said, “it barely seems like you’re going over an island.”

He works for R2 Companies, which published a land use and transportation vision for the island’s next decade, dubbed the Goose Island 2025 Plan. They propose adding more workplaces, as well as new transportation infrastructure that will make it easier for the new employees to get to work without driving.

While Cupkovic said Goose Island is in an ideal location, near ‘L’ lines and downtown, he feels the site hasn’t yet reached its full potential for commercial activity and transportation access. The only direct transit transit access is via the CTA’s #8 Halsted,  #70 Division, and limited service #132 bus route.

The 2009 opening of the Cherry Street pedestrian and bike bridge on the north side of Goose island made it easier to walk there from the Red Line’s North/Clybourn station. But, due to the lack of a bridge, there’s no way to directly access the island from the nearby Chicago Blue Line stop.

Last year, R2 hired local design firm PORT Urbanism to draft the plan to increase transportation access for the thousands of new workers Cupkovic says the island can support.

Their plan proposes two new car-free bridges. The first one would be located at the former footings of a bridge that formerly existed at the southwest side of the Goose Island, back when Ogden Avenue crossed the island. That bridge, and the rest of Ogden north of the Chicago River, were removed completely by 1993. The new bridge would create the missing link to the Chicago Blue Line stop.

Currently, a walking trip from the station to 909 W Bliss St., where R2 wants to rehabilitate an industrial building for commercial space, is three-quarters of a mile, and the new bridge would cut that to less than half a mile. Cupkovic’s company already owns the building, but there are only about three people working there on a daily basis — he says the company can bring in 600 workers. In another building they plan to build, Cupkovic said they could fit 1,000 workers.

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 2.56.02 PM
New car-free bridges at Ogden, to the southwest, and Evergreen, to the east, would make it easier to get to Goose Island from the ‘L’.

A second car-free bridge on the east side of the island would connect with Evergreen Avenue, located two blocks north of Division. This would shorten the walking distance to the North/Clybourn station, as well as the SoNo (“South of North”) development and the city’s largest Whole Foods Market, whose food court is already a popular lunch spot for Goose Island workers.

R2 is already in talks with the Chicago Department of Transportation about getting these bridges built. Cupkovic says they want to get private financing for the Ogden bike/ped bridge. “The city’s been supportive,” he says.

Speaking of financing, most of the island is in a tax increment financing district. Cupkovic thinks that the TIF money should be used only for infrastructure, because Goose Island is already an attractive-enough area for business investment without the need for city-subsidized incentives.

R2 is also proposing two new bridges for motor vehicles, as well as pedestrians and cyclists, at Weed Street on the northeast side of Goose Island, and Blackhawk Avenue, on the northwest side. Cupkovic said that these bridges would create connections for workers to access residential and retail on the mainland. Of course, they’d also encourage more driving.

The Goose Island 2025 Plan also calls for the creation of a new “River West” stop for Metra’s UP-North and UP-Northwest lines near the future Ogden bridge. And while there’s already a water taxi stop at the north end of the island, which takes workers to and from downtown, the plan proposes adding two more water taxi routes.

One less enlightened element of R2’s plan is their proposal to demolish the car-free Cherry Avenue bridge and build a new car-friendly bridge. That should be a non-starter, because the because the bridge, originally completed in 1902 for rail use, is an official landmark. Andrew Moddrell at PORT said that “It wasn’t part of the plan to modify the existing bike/ped bridge, it’s a beautiful bridge. Rather, we proposed a new auto bridge to the east that would connect to the dead-end street just north of the Whole foods parking lot.”

R2 and Port Urbanism will create a more intricate plan this year. In the interim, the developer wants to collaborate with other Goose Island property owners to add new landscaping, signs, and lighting to highlight the island and its development potential, Cupkovic said.

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  • Chicagoan

    Yeah, they shouldn’t be touching the Cherry Street Bridge, if anything, they should renovate it and make it a better pedestrian access point. I think some people aren’t sure if they should use it, as it looks like an active railroad bridge.

    The proposed Ogden Avenue Bridge looks incredible, I really hope it looks exactly like that. And, I can understand their desire to better connect Goose Island with bridges at Blackhawk Street and Weed Street. Will the bridges be pedestrian-friendly, at least?

    The River West Metra station sounds really nice. Aren’t they also building a station in Edgewater, to be called “Peterson Ridge”, for Union Pacific North? That’d give UPN stations in Rogers Park, Peterson Ridge, Ravenswood, Clybourn, and River West, before hitting Ogilvie. That’d be great.

  • BlueFairlane

    I would hope it wouldn’t have that pointless curve forced into it. Stuff like that’s pretty, I guess, if you’re into that sort of thing, but if you want people to actually use it, you won’t make the walking distance twice as long as it needs to be.

  • Anne A

    The Cherry St. bridge still IS an active railroad bridge AFAIK, though it doesn’t see trains very often.

  • If that rendering is any indication of the design, they are fundamentally misunderstanding how to design bicycle infrastructure. The Cykelslange in Copenhagen is curved because there’s no way to connect the two areas it connects in a straight line. In contrast, there doesn’t appear to be any logical reason for this one to be curved. Ditch the curve. If they think people will want to enjoy the view while they cross, then build a viewing deck midway or whatever. But don’t force people to make unnecessary turns and bends and stop copying stuff for the sake of copying.

  • chiboulevards

    Just a guess… but I imagine it was done this way so that the bridge didn’t get in the way of the building for the rendering.

  • Chicagoan

    Oh, I didn’t know that! Thank you, Anne. I thought it was still active, but Mr. Greenfield said it was “originally completed in 1902 for rail use”, so I figured it wasn’t used that way anymore. Still looks very active.

  • Chicagoan

    Perhaps they’ve designed it in the present shape to slow down cyclists as they cross? Similar to how The 606 trail meanders a little bit (while the railroad line was pretty much straight) to keep it from being a speedway for cyclists. That’s one guess.

  • Which is exactly the fundamental problem that permeates far too many bike projects in this country: timely travel by bike gets crucified. The bridge should be designed for speeds of at least 25 MPH. If they can do that with the curve, then sure, leave it if they want. But otherwise, kill the curve. Form should follow function, not the other way around.

  • Chicagoan

    But, what if pedestrians want to utilize the bridge? Should they have to look over their shoulder for crazed cyclists going way too fast? Also, does the bridge snaking a little in the middle really *crucify* cyclist travel? All you’d have to do is slow down a little bit as you approach the bridge. It’s nothing monumental.

  • Obesa Adipose

    There’s a change in elevation because of minimum heights required over the river – you can’t just span a level bridge shore to shore. An elevation requires a slope (or grade) which would have to meet ADA requirements and you have to stretch out the length to get the correct grade. BTW – As personally horrific as this sounds to you, this bridge isn’t intended as a bike only structure.Get over it.

  • Yes, I’m well aware that there indeed might be a practical reason for the bend. However, such a reason is definitely not apparent from the rendering currently produced. Also, the stated aim is to emulate Copenhagen’s Cykelslangen, which you do realize was built specifically to be a bike-only structure to separate bikes out of a pedestrian crossing…right?

  • If it is to be a “multi-use” bridge, then build it properly. That includes making sure that “crazed cyclists going way too fast”, which probably are barely cracking 15 MPH, aren’t causing “problems” when they do so by designing it for for the appropriate user groups. Yes, bikes and pedestrians can generally coexist and to be fair, it does appear from closer inspection of the picture that there’s a barrier that separates the bikes from the pedestrians. But in general, forcing bikes to have to ride slow through a promenade-like environment as part of a transportation-oriented route, especially on structures like this, is bad policy and should be avoided.

    Also, maybe the rending is doing it an injustice, but that’s hardly what I’d call “snaking a little”. From the image, the bend appears to nearly double the distance between the two supports. That means it would require a significant change of direction and thus quite a bit of braking as well, even for someone traveling an average pace. Being able to maintain a steady pace is rather important for efficient biking. Having to slow down simply because a designer liked how the curve of the Cykelslangen looked and wanted Chicago to have the piece of that action is the opposite of being bike friendly and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of designing for bikes. And yes, while it may only be one structure, it can play either of two roles in the bikeway network: the best practice anchor of a strong and growing network, or the weakest link meeting the barest of minimums that people avoid if they can. In 2016, I don’t understand why the goal would be to strive for the latter.

  • Obesa Adipose

    It may be the stated aim is to emulate – at least in style – Cykelslangen but this is Chicago not Copenhagen – well, not yet anyway – and until the number of bikers reached some kind of critical point we’re just going to all learn to live with each other. I commute between LS and WP on a regular bases and the selfish me would love to see the 606 a bike only conveyance (as it was originally intended and I’m going back to the late 90s) but it ain’t gonna happen in my lifetime. So I bought a bell and I keep the speed down and so far no ones gotten hit and it’s better than Milwaukee esp on the weekend evenings so if I can live with that I don’t see why the griping about this bridge.

  • Obesa Adipose

    “… timely travel by bike gets crucified” Really? Get a grip. You sound like one of those car owners who think of bikes as interlopers.

  • It reminds me of the Riverwalk, which, as I recall, got slammed here for using “transportation” funds to construct a delightful promenade that translates into a bicycle obstacle course. Is that going to happen again?

  • This “we’re not Copenhagen, so let’s not demand the best” attitude is exactly what I’m talking about. Just because one isn’t at the top doesn’t mean they can’t learn from the top, but that attitude does nothing to improve things. This is especially true on structures such as bridges and underpasses as they typically last many decades, meaning that a small problem at present becomes a complete catastrophe in the future. To make matters worse, someone apparently is trying to learn from the top because they’re copying the design.

    As I said before, this is an opportunity to either build what will become a strong point for expansion of the bikeway network or a weak link that people dread and avoid if possible. Which side of the coin it lands on depends on whether people have vision enough to demand the best or are content with being “not yet Copenhagen”.

  • Mike Erickson

    Roller blading the 606 last Friday was wonderful! 40 degree F revealed a few melt water drainage problems. It wasn’t crowded, so no problem, but at ~$30 mill/mile ($50 mill CMAQ), puddles can be fixed. Cost estimates for the proposed Goose Island bridge/trail? Would have loved to bike back to EP on a London-style elevated trail!!! All the discussion on curves reminds me of Robert Moses and NY roadways.

  • It’s hard to say. What they’re proposing are two bridges.

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