The Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce has launched a petition calling for the removal of new signs installed by a slip lane at the southeast corner of the five-way Grace/Halsted/Broadway intersection. The “Do Not Enter” and “No Right Turn to Broadway” signs essentially nullify the slip lane, which previously allowed northbound drivers on Halsted to make quick southeast turns onto Broadway. Right turns from Halsted around the far side of the pedestrian island onto Broadway are also banned.
The petition argues that the new signs create confusion for motorists and force them take a convoluted route via side streets to get from Halsted over to Broadway:
One will have to turn east on Sheridan, down Pine Grove over to Grace and eventually back to Broadway. This will drive more traffic through residential streets to get back on Broadway. Turning east on Sheridan will drive more traffic near Gill Park [at the southwest corner of Broadway and Sheridan] and the new development [a residential tower slated for the northeast corner of this intersection], causing an unsafe area for children crossing from the park.
The petition adds that the turn ban is a problem for people attending services at Anshe Emet Synagogue, located at the southeast corner of Grace/Halsted/Broadway, as well as parents dropping off their kids at the associated day school, and anyone else who frequents or live in the area. The Chamber also claims that the change creates a “hardship for small business” and will cause more congestion during baseball season at nearby Wrigley Field.
The petition, which has garnered about 300 signatures so far, is addressed to the Chicago Department of Transportation, which installed the signs, and local alderman James Cappleman, who approved them. Due to the Casimir Pulaski Day holiday, the chamber, CDOT, and Cappleman’s office didn’t respond to messages, but here are some initial thoughts on the issue.
First of all, it’s not necessary for northbound drivers on Halsted to do the Sheridan/Pine Grove/Grace jug handle in order to access the temple or businesses on Broadway southeast of the slip lane. They can simply turn east on Waveland (located a block south of Grace, it’s two-way between Halsted and Broadway) and then head northwest or southeast on Broadway.
Secondly, slip lanes, aka “channelized right turn lanes” or “pork chop islands,” are dangerous for pedestrians because they allow drivers to whip around corners, and they increase crossing distances. For this reason, CDOT’s Pedestrian Plan called for the eventual elimination of all slip lanes within the city (although the more recently published CDOT Complete Streets Guide merely states that the use of slip lanes is “not encouraged.”) Therefore, the chamber of commerce’s “think of the children” argument for letting drivers use the Halsted/Broadway slip lane is pretty ironic.
The slip lane shouldn’t just be eliminated with signs, which some drivers will surely disobey; it should be physically removed. This could be done on a trial basis using street painting and flexible posts, as was done with several slip lanes at the Wellington/Lincoln/Halsted intersection as part of the successful, if controversial, Lincoln Hub placemaking project. Or it could be done permanently with concrete.
On the other hand, it’s understandable that Lakeview East chamber and others object to banning all right turns from Halsted onto Broadway. Even the Waveland detour that I described above is not particularly intuitive.
Presumably, CDOT determined that it would be unsafe to allow drivers to make right turns around the Halsted/Broadway pedestrian island because the turning radius would be too sharp. A solution might be to soften the angle by creating a bump-out around the island using paint and posts, as was done at the Lincoln Hub.
Lots of drivers hated that street reconfiguration at first as well, but it’s been in place for the better part of a year and it doesn’t seem to be creating major hardships for motorists. It has, however, eliminated slip lanes dangers and shortened crossing distances for pedestrians.
Whatever CDOT eventually decides to do about allowing right turns from Halsted onto Broadway, here’s hoping that they don’t reinstate the hazardous slip lane.